Is there ever a valid reason for someone to decide when to end his or her own life? A French court has rejected a request from a 52-year-old severely disfigured former schoolteacher for the right to die, in a case that has stirred much emotion in France. The high court in Dijon, eastern France, decided to side with the prosecution which argued current legislation does not allow Chantal Sebire's doctor to prescribe lethal drugs. In her appeal to the court, Ms Sebire said she did not want to endure further pain and subject herself to an irreversible worsening of her condition. She asked the court to allow her doctor to help her end her life. "One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured,'' she said before urging President Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene and grant her request. Ms Sebire has said she will not appeal the decision rendered today and she would find life-terminating drugs through other means. "I now know how to get my hands on what I need and if I don't get it in France, I will get it elsewhere,'' she said.
In order that the question of euthanasia can be properly dealt with, it is first necessary to define the words used. Etymologically speaking, in ancient times euthanasia meant an easy death without severe suffering. Today one no longer thinks of this original meaning of the word, but rather of some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness or of the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. Ultimately, the word euthanasia is used in a more particular sense to mean "mercy killing," for the purpose of putting an end to extreme suffering, or saving abnormal babies, the mentally ill or the incurably sick from the prolongation, perhaps for many years, of a miserable life, which could impose too heavy a burden on their families or on society. It is, therefore, necessary to state clearly in what sense the word is used in the present document. By euthanasia is understood an...
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