French hospital to provide fine wines, liquor for terminal patients

A hospital may seem like the most unlikely place to find a wine bar, but ''medically supervised'' tipples will soon be allowed for patients in France.

Fine wines, champagne and whisky will be among the choices at the unusual establishment to be opened in September.

The bar will be in the palliative care centre at Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital in Puy-de-Dme, central France, which offers comfort for people with chronic and terminal illnesses.

Dr Virginie Guastella, the centre's manager, said she was defending "the right to have fun" and hopes the idea will catch on in other hospitals to brighten up the lives of patients and their families.

''A situation can be palliative for several weeks or even several months and it's because life is so precious and real until the end that we decided to cultivate all that is fine and good,'' Dr Guastella told media.

''It's a way of rethinking the care of others, taking into account their feelings and emotions that make them a human being.''

Acknowledging French people's traditionally ''hedonistic'' relationship with food and wine, she said there was no need to enforce a ban on the joys of life, especially when it could be reaching its end.

Staff at the hospital unit will be specially trained to manage patients' needs at the bar and hope it will offer terminally ill people a happier and more relaxed space to share their final days with family and friends.

It is widely believed that the occasional glass of red has health benefits but recent research has contradicted the popular wisdom, indicating that even the smallest amount of alcohol can be damaging.