Léon Schwartzenberg

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 30 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1052

French oncologist and one time government minister known for his outspoken views on patient care

Léon Schwartzenberg was a leading French cancer specialist. But he was more widely known as a radical intellectual and servant of social justice. For a few days in 1988 he was briefly a government minister. Thereafter he became increasingly outspoken, the champion of a range of issues—drug taking, the welfare of homeless people, and the right to die. He also served as a vociferous and occasionally unpredictable Socialist member of the European Parliament.

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Credit: SIPA/REX

He was in favour of providing syringes to drug users and of testing pregnant women for HIV. Twice he was thrown out of the medical union L'Ordre des Médecins, but he was unrepentant. “They are rubbish, absolutely worthless,” he declared during a public debate. In an attempt to challenge the government on its drug laws, he was one of 200 French artists, intellectuals, and politicians who signed a petition reading: “At one time or another in my life I have taken narcotics. I know that by publicly admitting to …

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