Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jul 2001
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Author: Arthur Max
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner was 
quoted Wednesday as admitting he had practiced euthanasia on dying patients 
and urging the decriminalization of marijuana in France.

Kouchner, the founder of the Nobel Peace prize-winning aid group Medecins 
Sans Frontieres, told the Dutch weekly Vrij Netherland that he had ended 
the lives of patients during wars in Lebanon and Vietnam.

The minister said he took it on himself to end the lives of suffering 
patients, and claimed the practice was secretly done often in France. But 
he did not say he himself had practiced euthanasia in France, where it is 

Kouchner was named health minister -- a post he held in the past -- after 
he ended in January an 18-month term as head of the U.N. administration in 
Kosovo, the Yugoslav province controlled by the United Nations and NATO. He 
has long been a human rights and proponent of humanitarian aid, and the aid 
group he founded -- known in English as Doctors Without Borders -- provides 
relief in conflicts around the world.

When Kouchner was asked if he had ever practiced euthanasia, the minister 
looked surprised and replied: "Oh, yes, I have done that, even without it 
being asked of me," the newsweekly reported.

"I have seen so many wars. It's a daily occurrence in hospitals that the 
life-support machines are turned off," Kouchner said. "I applied euthanasia 
on several occasions. If people were suffering too much pain and I knew 
beforehand they would die, then I helped them. I did it in Lebanon. I did 
it in Vietnam."

Asked what method he used, Kouchner said he used "injections with a lot of 

Euthanasia, which was legalized in the Netherlands earlier this year, is 
still outlawed in France.

Kouchner told reporters in Paris that the interview revealed nothing he 
hadn't already said numerous times before about his actions as a doctor 
during humanitarian missions.

In war, faced with "situations of extreme suffering, of destitution, what 
is one to do?" he said. "It is evident that one must behave in the best 
possible way to ease pain," and that "this has nothing to do with the 
debate over euthanasia."

He also admitted in the interview that he had used marijuana and said he 
would like to regulate its use in France. He said cannabis is less 
dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes.

"I'm not going to say you cannot smoke marijuana. It would be ridiculous to 
close your eyes to reality," he said. "Tobacco is more addictive than hash. 
As far as I know, no one has ever died from smoking cannabis. But in France 
60,000 people die each year from smoking cigarettes. People also die from 
drinking too much alcohol."
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