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French doctors in call for legal euthanasia

PARIS (AFP) - Some 2,000 French doctors and nurses issued a joint call for euthanasia to be legalised in the country, arguing that mercy killings are already widely practiced by the French medical profession, in a text to be printed Thursday.

In the manifesto, to appear in the Nouvel Observateur weekly, all claim to have helped patients to "die with dignity" in the past, using drugs to alleviate their suffering and precipitate death.

"Because, without a doubt, illness was defeating therapy, because despite suitable care, physical and psychological suffering were making the patient's life unbearable, because the patient wanted to end his life, we carers, in full conscience, have medically helped patients to die with dignity," they write.

"The majority of those who care regularly for patients up until death, use -- in the circumstances cited above -- chemical substances to precipitate an end that has become too cruel, in full knowledge they are breaking the law."

The manifesto comes days ahead of the trial of a French doctor and nurse, accused of deliberately causing the death of a woman suffering from terminal cancer in 2003.

It calls for charges against the pair to be immediately dropped and for the law criminalising euthanasia to be revised as soon as possible.

French legislation adopted in 2005 made it possible not to artificially prolong the life of a terminally-ill patient who asks to stop treatment, as well as administer pain relief drugs that may accelerate the patient's death.

The text was adopted in response to the high-profile trial of a Frenchwoman who helped her quadriplegic son -- left blind, mute and paralysed by a car crash -- to die in 2003. Both she and her doctor were acquitted in the case.