French Woman at Center of Euthanasia Case Refused Treatment for Five Years

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 6, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

French Woman at Center of Euthanasia Case Refused Treatment for Five Years Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 6
, 2008

Paris, France ( — The French woman Chantal Sebire who is at the heart of an international debate over euthanasia, refused medical treatment for her condition. Sebire wanted help to take her own life because she had a rare sinus tumor that was ravaging her face and she unsuccessfully pressed for France to allow the practice.

However, a new report in Time magazine finds the woman refused medical help for her condition for almost five years.

According to the American news magazine, Sebire’s refusal to obtain medical treatment allowed the tumor to evolve into a terminal phase that ultimately prompted her to pursue an assisted suicide.

"From the moment she refused surgical treatment, growth of the tumors to their ultimate terminal phase was a given," Jean-Louis B’al of the University Hospital Center in Dijon told the magazine.

He said he repeatedly advised Sebire to undergo treatment and said three hospitals offered her a surgery.

"For years she refused the medical community’s help to master her disease, and later to limit its evolution and pain," B’al noted. "Then, towards the end, she demanded the medical community help her die using the same sort of medicine she’d rejected as treatment."

Doctors indicated the extremely rare esthesioneuroblastoma disease the French woman suffered from could have been controlled by removing it surgically after the initial detection.

Afterwards, she could have gone on to lead a relatively normal life — but Time says Sebire refused an operation and subsequently turned down any palliative care or medications to help her combat pain.

Although her case prompted a debate in France about whether to legalize the grisly practice, her situation is significantly different than that of Terri Schiavo, the disabled woman whose husband won the right from a court to take her life by subjecting her to a painful starvation and dehydration death.

In Terri’s case, her family desperately desired to provide her with both appropriate medical care and rehabilitative treatment.

Last month, after learning that she would not be allowed an assisted suicide, Sebire died of a self-induced overdose of narcotic drugs in what appeared to be a suicide.