France psychiatrist guilty over murder by patient

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A French court has found a psychiatrist guilty of involuntary homicide over a murder by one of her patients.

Daniele Canarelli was given a suspended prison sentence of one year, in the first case of its kind in France.

Her patient Joel Gaillard murdered a man in March 2004, 20 days after Gaillard fled a consultation with Canarelli at a hospital in Marseille.

Canarelli's lawyers said the verdict would lead to harsher treatment of patients by psychiatrists.

While accepting that there was no such thing as "zero risk" in such cases and that doctors could not predict the actions of their patients, the court found that Canarelli had made several mistakes in Gaillard's treatment.

In contrast to other medical professionals who have to make quick judgements about their patients, Canarelli had a longer period of time during which she should have realised Gaillard's treatment was failing, the court found.

The court's Fabrice Castoldi said Canarelli should either have placed him in a specialised unit for difficult patients or referred him to another team.

Gaillard killed 80-year-old Germain Trabuc with an axe in March 2004 in the town of Gap.

He had been judged not responsible for his actions due to his suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was freed under medical supervision.

Marianne Coen, secretary of an association set up in support of Canarelli, told the AFP news agency she was "very disappointed and surprised" at the verdict.

Mr Trabuc's son Michel said he hoped the case would set a precedent and that it would "advance" the practice of psychiatry.

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