- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

PARIS, Jan. 20 (UPI) — A nurse Monday faced the first day of a trial in which she is accused of killing at least seven people in her care, between 1998-1999, at a suburban Paris hospital.

Variously dubbed "the angel of death" by her colleagues, and the "Madonna of

euthanasia" by champions of the practice, Christine Malevre, 32, remains a mystery to observers of the case.

At issue is whether the nurse ended the lives of terminally ill patients out of compassion, or whether Malevre is a psychopathic killer.

Malevre admits she killed four patients but not seven as she is accused. All were dying and in pain, she said, and begged the nurse to end their lives.

But Malevre's 2-week trial has helped rekindle a long-simmering debate in France on legalizing euthanasia, following similar moves by nearby Belgium

and the Netherlands.

Malevre remained impassive before her accusers during the first day of the trial. Many are families of her alleged victims, who claim she killed without the patients' authority, for her own, twisted reasons.

But Malevre began to cry as lawyers related other troubled incidents in her past.

Suspicions were first raised at the Mantes-la-Jolie hospital at Malevre's actions in 1998. Colleagues regularly found her administrating sedatives. An unusual number of deaths also seemed to occur in her presence.

Later that year, the nurse claimed to have killed 30 patients, but then said she had killed only four.

At least one psychiatrist who has examined her said she is morbidly fascinated with death, and some hospital staff said she sometimes joked about the subject. Malevre's is the latest of several recent, and highly publicized incidents in France, which have re-stirred questions about legalizing the practice.

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