French Court Rules in Favor of Life Support in Divisive ‘Passive Euthanasia’ Case
France’s laws permit the so called “passive euthanasia” but it is becoming the matter of an increasingly heated debate.
French court of appeals in Paris has ruled in favor of resuming the life support of a man, who has been in a vegetative state since 2008, in a “passive euthanasia”, i.e. right-to-die case that has stirred a controversy in France and abroad.
The court ordered on Monday authorities “to take all measures” to keep alive Vincent Lambert, a 42-year-old quadraplegic with severe brain damage who got injured in a car accident over a decade ago.
The court order is pending a review of Vincent Lambert case by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, AFP and France24 reported.
Before that, earlier on Monday, at the request of his wife and other family members, doctors had stopped the nutrition and hydration that Lambert receives meaning that he might have died within days.
The court ruling, however, was welcomed by Lambert’s mother, Viviane, 73, as “a very big victory” in her struggle to maintain vital medical care for her son.
“They were starting to eliminate Vincent! This is a very big victory. They are going to restore nutrition and give him drink. For once I am proud of the courts,” she said.
Earlier this year, other courts had supported an assessment that nothing more could be done for Lambert who is kept at the Sebastopol Hospital in the northeastern French city of Reims.
Lambert’s parents, devout Catholics, have been fighting in court to keep him alive, while Lambert’s wife and six siblings believe the most humane course is to let him die.
“[Resuming life support would be] pure sadism by the medical-judicial system,” said Lambert’s nephew Francis, who supported passive euthanasia for his uncle.
The Vincent Lambert case has heated up the debate over France’s right-to-die laws, which allow so-called “passive” euthanasia for severely ill or injured patients with no chance of recovery.
Pope Francis himself also took a position on the case before the court ruling, speaking in favor of keeping Lambert alive.
“Let us always safeguard life, God’s gift, from its beginning until its natural end. Let us not give in to a throwaway culture,” the Pope said.
French President Emmanuel Macron rejected calls by Lambert’s parents and others to intervene in the passive euthanasia case.
“The decision to stop treatment was taken after a constant dialogue between his doctors and his wife, who is his legal representative,” Macron said.
“To see him go, is to see him as a freed man,” said Vincent Lambert’s wife Rachel.
“Everyone can have their own opinion and convictions… but above all, can we now have our privacy,” she told RTL radio.
The UN committee on disabled rights asked France earlier this month to stop the decision to turn off Lambert’s life support until it conducts its own investigation, which could take years. France’s government has agreed to take into account its position but is not legally obliged to comply with them.
Before that, in April and now once again on Monday, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rejected a request by the parents to stop the cessation of life-support pending the review by UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
(Banner image: Vincent Lambert’s mother Viviene, video grab from France24)