Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


News Article: Euthanasia

French Woman Who Sought Euthanasia Dies

What would you do if you were faced with a medical crisis that was both terminal and painful but did not have the legal consent to perform voluntary active euthanasia? Would you just accept your fate or would you do something to change it? How would you react if you knew that the country that you loved so dearly denied you of this luxury and watched as you suffered with this unbearable illness until your dying day? What would you do then? Would you be subjected to suicide (in physically taking your own life) or would you endure in an excruciatingly painful death (that can otherwise be viewed as passive euthanasia)?

No one really knows what happened that day. Chantal Sebre was found dead in the chambers of her own home in the French town of Plombieres-les-Dijon in eastern France one Wednesday afternoon. According to the news, she was only 52 years old and was suffering from a very rare form of cancer called esthesioneuroblastoma. As rare as they come, the effects of this illness was said to have contributed to her lost of eye sight, nose and tastes senses during the last eight years of what appeared to have been her miserable life. What make matters even worse is that the excruciating pain that Sebre felt in her eye (for the tumor had caused her nose to swell several sizes beyond its original size and her eye to be pushed out of its socket) could not be contained by morphine because of its dominant side effects. This led Sebre to the only possible choice she felt had; the only choice that could stop her physical and mental torture for good: active euthanasia. The French courts, however, denied this request and that is what, I believe, led to her death (local authorities are still unsure of how she died).

What attracted me to this news article was the “before and after picture” that accompanied it. The facial tumor had completely disoriented this woman’s face and I was curious about the story that followed. One could only imagine the amount of pain she endured by just looking at the photo. Despite the fact that her autonomy was completely disregarded this case also makes me question the moral and medical ethics behind the practice of French doctors. It’s understandable that in this country the practice of euthanasia is not encouraged or enforced but something could have certainly been done to relieve this patient of her pain. I mean isn’t that what medial subjects are suppose to do? Aren’t they suppose to find other alternatives to the current problem? The news article doesn’t really go into detail but it appears as if she received a court order stating that she couldn’t be grants rights in taking her own life and was just left to die (without the help any physician). This clearly dissatisfies the viewpoints of self-determination in Brook’s argument about the use and need for euthanasia. His concept clearly justifies autonomy but I wonder if it would be safe to say so in this case because of the fact euthanasia isn’t practiced at all in France?

Reading this article also brought another interesting concept to mind. Because the news article doesn’t state the exact cause of death I assume that one is granted permission to make assumptions about how Seibre died. If she were to have proceeded into taking her own life by say an overdose of pills, would it be wrong to describe the act as voluntary active euthanasia? After all, according to Gay and Williams’ definition of euthanasia one must have intentionally engaged in an act that is intended to lead to death. Therefore, will it be flawed to say that suicide and active euthanasia was essentially the same thing? If they are both medically induced by the uptake of drugs then what is the distinction?

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