Fri, Jul 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Death ends France life support battle

AFP, REIMS, France

People demonstrate in support of French quadriplegic Vincent Lambert in Paris on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

A French man at the center of a bitter row over right-to-die legislation yesterday passed away in a hospital more than a week after doctors removed his hydration and nutrition tubes, his family said.

Vincent Lambert, 42, in 2008 was involved in a near-fatal car crash that left him a quadriplegic with severe brain damage that doctors had long said was irreversible.

Left in a vegetative state, the question of whether to continue keeping him alive artificially divided his family and the nation, triggering a years-long legal battle that raged in the highest courts in France and Europe.

On Tuesday last week, Vincent Sanchez, head of palliative care at the University Hospital in Reims, France, had begun removing the life support mechanisms in a process that was completed by Wednesday evening.

Although his feeding and hydration tubes were removed, he was kept under sedation.

Multiple medical assessments ordered by the courts over the years found that the former psychiatric nurse had no chance of recovering.

Jean Paillot, a lawyer for Lambert’s parents who had fought the move to take him off life support, said it was “now time for a moment of remembrance” and vowed to respond when ready.

The case rekindled a charged debate over France’s right-to-die laws, which allow so-called “passive” euthanasia for severely ill or injured patients who are being kept alive with no chance of recovery.

Even Pope Francis got involved, tweeting in May that it was necessary to “always safeguard life, God’s gift, from its beginning until its natural end.”

Lambert’s fate had sparked a battle in the courts with his deeply Catholic parents and two of his eight siblings fighting to keep him alive, while his wife, Rachel, his doctors, six other brothers and sisters, and a nephew have fought for his right to die.

Those close to him said that Lambert had repeatedly made clear that he would not want to be kept alive artificially, although this was never put in writing.

However, over the years, his parents managed to successfully challenge five different attempts by doctors to halt his life support.

The last time they tried to do so was in May, but it was quickly overturned by a Paris appeals court.

That ruling was then taken to France’s top appeals court, the Cour de Cassation, which on June 28 said that doctors could legally end his life support in what was hailed as a definitive final judgement by lawyers for his wife.

With their efforts spurned by the highest courts in France, as well as by the European Court of Human Rights, Lambert’s parents on Friday last week filed a suit for “murder,” with prosecutors in Reims opening a preliminary inquiry.

On Monday last week, his mother turned to the UN Human Rights Council in a last-ditch plea for help, saying that her son was about to “be euthanized because of his mental handicap.”

“He is in a state of minimal consciousness, but he is not a vegetable,” she told the council, but by Monday, just days after doctors removed his tubes, the couple had accepted that his death was now “unavoidable.”

This story has been viewed 1334 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top