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French psychiatrist sentenced after patient commits murder
A French psychiatrist whose patient hacked an elderly man to death was found guilty of manslaughter on Tuesday in a groundbreaking case that could affect the way patients are treated.
A court in Marseilles said Daniele Canarelli, 58, had committed a "grave error" by failing to recognize the public danger posed by Joel Gaillard, her patient of four years.
Gaillard hacked to death 80-year-old Germain Trabuc with an axe in March 2004 in Gap, in the Alps region of southeastern France, 20 days after fleeing a consultation with Canarelli at Marseilles's Edouard Toulouse hospital.
Canarelli was handed a one-year prison sentence and ordered to pay 8,500 euros to the victim's children, in the first case of its kind in France. Defense lawyers said the ruling would have serious repercussions for treatment of the mentally ill.
The court said Canarelli should have requested Gaillard be placed in a specialized medical unit or referred him to another medical team, as one of her colleagues suggested. Her stubborn refusal had equated to a form of "blindness", the court president Fabrice Castoldi said.
"If a psychiatrist lives in fear of being sentenced, it will have very real consequences and probably lead to harsher treatment of patients," said Canarelli's lawyer, Sylvain Pontier.