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French Health Minister admits to mercy killings

Thursday, August 20, 1970

REUTERS ENGLISH NEWS SERVICE (July 24, 2001)

By Paul Gallagher

AMSTERDAM, July 24 (Reuters) - France's health minister Bernard Kouchner has said he performed mercy killings in Vietnam and Lebanon during a controversial career as a doctor and aid worker, but said ending someone's life was a "delicate matter".

Kouchner, co-founder of the medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and a supporter of legalising euthanasia, made the revelation to a Dutch magazine.

"I have performed euthanasia various times. When people were suffering too much pain and I knew in advance they would die, I would help them. I did that in Lebanon and I did that in Vietnam," the 61-year-old told the weekly Vrij Nederland.

"If you switch off the treatment machine, the patient dies and I can tell you, it works.

"I gave people injections, never tablets. Injections with a lot of morphine. Some people I can still remember very well. All doctors in the world know those sorts of patients," he said.

The interview was made available on Tuesday, a day ahead of publication. Kouchner's office said the interview was accurate.

Energetic and outspoken, Kouchner rose to prominence by spearheading humanitarian missions over two decades.

In April, when the Netherlands became the first country to openly endorse euthanasia , he said he would press for it to be legalised in France too.

Kouchner returned to French government in February after a stint as U.N. administrator in Kosovo. He first moved into mainstream politics in the 1980's, holding several cabinet posts, and became something of a celebrity in France.

He was behind the group of French doctors and aid workers who from the late 1960's broke the rules of diplomatic etiquette by taking relief to war victims without first asking permission.

He has done relief work in Biafra, Jordan, Kurdistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Armenia and Yugoslavia.

"I have been in so many wars and also in hospitals. It happens on a daily basis that life-prolonging (medical) equipment is being switched off," he said in the interview.

Asked what form of euthanasia he had administered, he replied: "Both passive and active euthanasia ."

"When push comes to shove nobody wants to die. I have seen patients who struggled to their last sob."

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