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French doctor cleared over euthanasia deaths

Until his acquittal, ex-emergency-room doctor faced life in prison over deaths of seven terminally ill patients.

Last updated: 25 Jun 2014 14:47
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The case prompted intense debate in France, where euthanasia is still illegal [AFP]

A French doctor who was charged over the deaths of seven terminally ill patients has been acquitted.

Nicolas Bonnemaison had faced life in prison when he went on trial in the southwestern city of Pau earlier this month but the judge cleared the doctor on Wednesday of all the charges against him.

The verdict came just one day after France's highest administrative court authorised ending the life of a quadriplegic in a vegetative state, in a landmark decision that divided his family and was immediately blocked by the European Court of Human Rights pending a review of the case.

Bonnemaison, an emergency-room doctor who has since been struck off the medical register, was accused of poisoning five women and two men who died between March 2010 and July 2011 soon after being admitted to a hospital in the southwestern city of Bayonne where he worked.

The families of some of the victims were grateful to Bonnemaison, others felt he did not keep them informed.

The practice is illegal in France but President Francois Hollande promised during his 2012 campaign to look into legalising it.

A 2005 law in France already allows passive euthanasia, where a person causes death by withholding or withdrawing treatment that is necessary to maintain life.

Late last year, a panel set up by Hollande recommended legalising assisted suicide, which allows a doctor to provide a patient with all the necessary lethal substances to end their life, but lets them carry out the final act.

Bonnemaison's lawyers on Wednesday hailed a decision they hoped would force politicians to "go quicker" in modifying legislation governing euthanasia.

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