France court rules psychiatrist guilty of murder by her patient

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…

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.

Sorry, but, I am automatically suspicious of courts ruling on science and medicine. Questions of law don’t have to produce answers about justice – and this could be one of those cases. Society – and the voices of those who assign themselves the role of overseer of law and order – demands someone be found guilty of the crime. Since they couldn’t do so to Gaillard, they chose his doctor.

Daniele Canarelli may be guilty of professional mistakes; still, I’m not certain if any doctor is supposed to be omniscient, especially dealing with mental illness. Laying criminal responsibility upon someone not sworn to protect and serve as a copper smells of everything but justice.

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