A severely disfigured French woman was found dead at her home Wednesday, a local prosecutor said, only two days after a court rejected her request for the right to die, in a case that has stirred much emotion in France.
The high court in Dijon, eastern France, decided Monday to side with the prosecution which argued that current legislation does not allow the doctor of 52-year-old former schoolteacher Chantal Sebire to prescribe lethal drugs.
In her appeal to the court, Sebire had said she did not want to endure further pain and subject herself to an irreversible worsening of her condition. She asked the court to allow her doctor to help her end her life.
Sebire's body was found at her home in the eastern town of Plombieres-les-Dijon in the Bourgogne region on Wednesday afternoon.
The cause of her death was not immediately known, Dijon prosecutor Jean-Pierre Allachi said.
A mother of three, Sebire attracted a strong outpouring of sympathy when she appealed in a television interview last month for the right to "depart peacefully".
Before-and-after pictures of the woman, her face severely deformed, have been featured in the press along withd her account of frightened children who ran away at the sight of her.
Sebire learnt in 2002 that she had developed an esthesioneuroblastoma, an uncommon malignant tumour in the nasal cavity, which she said had led to "atrocious" suffering.
"In 2000, I lost the sense of smell and taste... and I lost my sight in October 2007," she said in the television interview.
"One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured," she said before urging President Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene and grant her request.
Commenting on the case, Justice Minister Rachida Dati said last week that "doctors were not there to prescribe lethal drugs."
Legislation adopted in 2005 allows families to request that life-support equipment for a terminally-ill patient be switched off, but does not allow a doctor to take action to end a patient's life.
Sarkozy asked his chief adviser on health issues to contact Sebire and seek a second opinion on her condition.
Sebire had said she would not appeal the decision rendered Monday and that she would find life-terminating drugs through other means.
"I now know how to get my hands on what I need and if I don't get it in France, I will get it elsewhere," she said.
Only 200 cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide in two decades.
Sebire's death came on the same day as 78-year-old Belgian author Hugo Claus's death by euthanasia while suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are the only European Unions that currently allow euthanasia.