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French nurse gets more jail on appeal
( 2003-10-16 11:37) (Agencies)

An appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of a former nurse in the deaths of six patients between 1997 and 1998, and increased her original sentence from 10 years in prison to 12.

The prosecutor had sought a 15- to 18-year prison term. The three lawyers defending Christine Malevre had asked the court to acquit her.

Malevre, 33, had been convicted in January of hastening or causing the deaths of six patients with overdoses of morphine or potassium at a suburban Paris hospital. She was acquitted in the death of a seventh patient in that trial.

Malevre "allowed herself to be overcome by the suffering of patients and her own suffering," defense lawyer Michel Zaoui pleaded before the court. Her motive was not to kill but "dangerous pity."

The appeals trial began two weeks ago just as France reopened a debate on euthanasia following the death of a deaf, mute and paralyzed man after his mother allegedly gave him a deadly dose of sedatives that put him in a coma. Doctors then took the 22-year-old Vincent Humbert off a respirator. Humbert had written a book pleading for the right to die and his mother made it known that the two had a death plan for him.

However, testimony showed that in the case of Malevre, the nurse never consulted with dying patients or their families before ending the patients' lives. Her lawyers described her as "fragile."

Malevre began working at the Mantes-la-Jolie hospital in 1995, and her excessive devotion to terminally ill patients began arousing suspicions in the following year. An inquiry showed the number of deaths increased during shifts Malevre worked.

She was placed under formal police investigation in 1998 in the deaths of 11 patients, although charges eventually were dropped in four cases from lack of evidence.

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