The case of a doctor and nurse standing trial for euthanasia has reignited the French euthanasia debate. The pair, from south west France, are accused of killing a 65 year old terminally ill patient who had pancreatic cancer, using a lethal potassium injection, in 2003. If found guilty, they face up to 30 years in jail.

In an apparent mark of solidarity though, more than 2000 French colleagues - doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals - have signed up publically to an admition of assisting deaths of terminally ill patients: 'We, medical workers, have, consciously, medically assisted patients to die with decency'. Their petition, published in Le Nouvel Observateur on 8 March, went on to call for the end of legal pursuit of health care staff on euthanasia charges, and also for its decriminalisation. Furthermore, it claimed that the majority of its signatories regularly helped patients to die with 'chemical substances that speed up an end to life that is otherwise too cruel, knowing full well that this is currently against the law'.

Both this legal case and the petition come at a crucial time for the French assisted dying debate. France is in the middle of a presidential election campaign and both the leading presidential candidates are pledging to reopen the euthanasia debate.

Quick to fight back though is the French Society for Accompaniment and Palliative Care. Its own petition is calling for signatures from all healthcare professionals and organisations opposed to euthanasia. And to date, far outstripping those 2000 pro-euthanasia signatures, the number of French healthcare professionals nailing their anti-euthanasia colours to the mast is 5160...and counting.

Care Not Killing (source BMJ 2007; 334:555)