The European Court of Human Rights has authorised France to take quadriplegic Vincent Lambert off life support in a landmark decision.
The plight of the 38-year old, who was left severely brain damaged after a 2008 road accident, has split his family and sparked a fierce euthanasia debate in France.
His wife Rachel, who like him is a psychiatric nurse, has said he would never have wanted to be kept alive artificially, and that she wanted to “let him go”.
He would, she insisted, “never have wanted to be kept in this state”.
“Keeping him alive artificially, it is unbearable compared to the man he was,” she said.
In January 2014, Lambert’s doctors, backed by his wife and six of his eight siblings plus a nephew decided to stop the intravenous food and water keeping him alive in line with a 2005 passive euthanasia law in France. The decision was made after Lambert appeared to resist attempts to be fed, suggesting he wished to die.
However, his deeply devout Catholic parents, half-brother and sister won an urgent court application to stop the plan, arguing that he was suffering from a “handicap”, not an “incurable brain disease”.
“They are trying to make us say we don’t want him to go, but it is not at all the case, we don’t want him to be snuffed out,” his mother Vivianne told AFP in January.
In an appeal, the French supreme administrative court, known as the State Council, ordered three doctors to draw up a report on Lambert’s condition and in June ruled that the decision to withdraw care from a man with no hope of recovery was lawful.
Lambert’s parents then took the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which ordered France to keep Lambert alive while they deliberated on whether the State Council’s decision was in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.
His parents have insisted that regardless of the European court’s decision they will appeal ending his life support because the doctor who made the initial decision to stop it has since left the Reims university hospital where he is being treated.
The ruling is considered landmark as it sets a legal precedent for all of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states. “As soon as a state wishes to modify its legislation on ths issue, it will have to examine the principles solemnly posed in this ruling,” Nicolas Hervieu, an European human rights court specialist.
Euthanasia is illegal in France but Francois Hollande pledged in his 2012 presidential campaign to look into the issue.
In March MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a law allowing medics to place terminally-ill patients into a deep sleep until they die.
The law also makes “living wills” – drafted by people who do not want to be kept alive artificially if they are too ill to decide – legally binding on doctors
Source: The Telegrapgh