A French doctor convicted last week of having given an elderly patient a lethal injection was hospitalized in critical condition on Saturday after apparently trying to commit suicide, according to media reports said.
Nicolas Bonnemaison, a former hospital emergency ward medic, was found unconscious in his car, parked in a remote woodland spot in southwest France, reports said.
Two joggers notified authorities after noticing the vehicle with its engine running and the exhaust blocked. Bonnemaison, 54, was flown to a hospital by helicopter, suffering carbon monoxide poisoning. His condition was described as “extremely serious.”
The drama came seven days after the doctor, described in court as a “militant supporter of euthanasia,” was convicted of deliberately causing the death of an 86-year-old woman who was in a coma after suffering a severe stroke. Bonnemaison gave her a fatal dose of sedative, the court was told.
He was given a two-year suspended sentence in the woman’s death, while cleared of six other charges of euthanasia involving elderly patients with fatal diseases at the hospital in Bayonne where he worked in 2010 and 2011.
While euthanasia is illegal in France there was a wave of public sympathy for Bonnemaison, who insisted the patients were terminally ill and often in pain. French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly promised to make it easier for those with terminal illnesses to obtain medical help to end their suffering, while stopping short of supporting euthanasia in France, a traditionally Catholic country.
The charges against Bonnemaison carried a life prison term, but even the prosecutors had called for a suspended sentence saying Bonnemaison was “not a killer, not a poisoner in the common sense of the word.”
The doctor decided not to challenge last week’s verdict, but was reported to be devastated to have been struck off the medical register and unable to practice.
“Medicine is my life, my patients are my life and I miss them,” he told the court.
“I acted according to my understanding of how a medic should. I consider that it is part of a doctor’s duty to accompany their patients to the end of the end,” Bonnemaison added during the hearing.
At an earlier court appearance in June 2014, he said: “It’s a powerful experience with patients at the end of their lives, things that affect a doctor ... but to appear as a criminal, a killer, a poisoner, that’s violent.”
Willsher is a special correspondent.