March 10, 2006

Charges Dropped Against Mom Who Helped Son Die

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

PARIS--A French court has dropped charges against a woman who had faced a possible five-year prison sentence for deliberately causing her son's death.

According to Reuters news service, Marie Humbert expressed disappointment that she would not be able to use the case to campaign for a law allowing assisted suicide.

Vincent Humbert, 21, did not have a terminal illness, but was deaf, paralyzed and could not talk following an automobile accident in 2000. The former firefighter later wrote a book about his wish to die.

Mrs. Humbert said that she and her son worked out a way for him to die through an overdose of sedatives. The overdose did not kill her son, however, but left him in a coma and on an artificial respirator. He died on September 26, 2003, after Dr. Frederic Chaussoy removed the respirator.

Prosecutors charged Mrs. Humbert with willfully administering toxic substances to a vulnerable person, which carries a maximum five year sentence, and Chaussoy was charged with "premeditated poisoning", after medical tests determined that Humbert actually died from being injected twice with Nesdonal and potassium chloride.

Nesdonal is an anesthetic. Potassium chloride causes the heart to stop beating and is commonly used for lethal injection in executions.

"Dropping the charges means nothing existed," Marie Humbert said after the February 27 announcement.

"Even I, who have committed a crime, will not be allowed to speak to defend my son," she added. "It's not logical. I will continue to fight for a law."

The Humbert case prompted the French National Assembly in November 2004 to approve a measure legalizing "passive euthanasia", that is, removing life support so a person with a terminal illness and "no hope of survival" will die.

Ironically, the law would not have applied to Humbert, because he did not have a terminal illness.

Many disability advocacy groups oppose efforts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. They argue that doing so would, among other things, put vulnerable people with certain disabilities and medical conditions at even greater risk.

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Posted on March 10, 2006