A French court has handed down a one-year suspended jail sentence to a doctor who prescribed a fatal overdose of potassium chloride to a terminally ill cancer patient.
Doctor Laurence Tramois, 35, and nurse Chantal Chanel, 40, had been prosecuted for poisoning Paulette Druais, a 65-year-old woman in 2003.
Druais was dying of pancreatic cancer in a hospital in Saint-Astier in the southwestern Dordogne region.
At the end of the trial, the court cleared the nurse but held Dr.Tramois guilty. Still she got only a suspended term.
(Those receiving a suspended sentence do not actually have to undergo imprisonment. Only they should follow certain conditions laid down by the court. If they do not follow those conditions, the judge has the option of sending them back to jail.)
The jury in the in the Tramois trial ruled that her conviction should not be kept on file. That means she can continue to practise medicine.
The sentence was the lowest possible under French law. The duo had risked a 30-year prison term in deciding to end the life of Druais.
During questioning, Tramois defended her decision to prescribe the lethal potassium injection, stating she had wanted to preserve her patient's dignity.
Druais had developed intestinal complications that could have led to fecal vomiting, the doctor argued.
But investigators maintained that the decision had been taken without proper consultation with the family of the patient.
French law allows families to request that life-support equipment for a terminally-ill patient be switched off. But it does not allow a doctor to take action to end a patient's life.
The case had generated huge interest across France. The issue found its way into the presidential election campaign too. The leading candidates indirectly backed the doctor in her decision to end the agony of the patient.
Over 2,000 doctors and nurses came out in support of the doctor and demanded that euthanasia be made legal in France.
Active euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.