A Paris appeals court on Monday ordered the resumption of life-support for a longtime vegetative Frenchman from whom doctors had only hours earlier begun withdrawing treatment, in a wrenching case that has divided his family and country.
The court ordered authorities “to take all measures” to keep alive Vincent Lambert, a 42-year-old quadriplegic with severe brain damage, pending a review by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Lambert’s mother, Viviane, 73, hailed the ruling as “a very big victory” in her struggle to maintain vital medical care for her son.
Doctors had earlier on Monday halted the nutrition and hydration Lambert receives, in line with the wishes of his wife and other relatives.
Other courts this year had backed their assessment that nothing more could be done for Lambert, who has been kept alive for more than a decade, ever since a car accident in 2008.
Medical sources said that Lambert could die within days or a week without the life support treatment he had been getting in the Sebastopol Hospital in Reims.
The case has re-ignited a contentious 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.
Lambert’s parents, devout Catholics, have repeatedly launched court action to keep him alive, putting them at odds with Lambert’s wife and six siblings who believe the most humane course is to let him die.
On Monday, his mother told reporters: “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.”
However, Lambert’s nephew Francis, who supported euthanasia for his uncle, said restoring treatment would be “pure sadism by the medical-judicial system.”
The UN committee this month asked France to suspend the decision while it conducts its own investigation, which could take years.
The French government has said that it would note the committee’s deliberations, but made it clear that there was no legal obligation for it to abide by them.
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