A court ruling in France has deprived 42-year-old Vincent Lambert of any other means of legal recourse to defend his Right to Life. LifeSiteNews reports that the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) ruled last week that he will be deprived of nutrition and hydration and heavily sedated until he dies.
Lambert was in a car accident almost a decade ago that left him minimally conscious and tetraplegic, paralyzed in all four limbs and much of his torso. Since 2012, Lambert has been denied physiotherapy, which his lawyers note is an essential form of treatment for minimally conscious, brain-injured patients. During his years-long ordeal, reports indicate that he was initially considered in a “vegetative state,” but later doctors decided he was in a “minimally conscious state,” aware of his surroundings and able to respond to certain stimuli and the presence of his loved ones.
Like the American woman Terri Schiavo, Lambert is a brain-injured patient dependent on long-term care. He is otherwise physically healthy and certainly not dead or dying from his injuries. Despite this, Lambert’s wife Rachel and his nephew François Lambert, son of his half-sister, have advocated for his inhumane death by starvation and dehydration.
In fact, in 2013, Lambert’s wife and doctors succeeded in nearly starving him to death while he went more than 30 days without food and very little liquids. Although Lambert narrowly survived the attempt to end his life in 2013, he will likely suffer the same fate as Schiavo this time. Changes to French law in the intervening years mean that doctors will not provide any fluids, and Lambert will likely die of dehydration within a short time.
In Schiavo’s case, her estranged husband demanded against the wishes of her parents and brother that she be denied artificial nutrition and hydration and the court ruled that she would die of thirst. For Terri Schiavo, death came after almost 14 days without food or water.
In the face of the most recent inhumane ruling, Lambert’s parents and two of his siblings have made an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Disturbingly, this appeal is unlikely to result in the defense of Lambert’s Life; in 2015, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that withholding artificial nutrition and hydration could be deemed “treatment,” which can be withheld legally from a patient, and not “care,” which is legally required.
Lambert’s nephew, who by all accounts was not especially close with his uncle, has made speaking appearances and given interviews advocating for the death by dehydration and starvation of his uncle. He insists that in conversation with his wife before the accident, Lambert indicated that he would not want continued care if he were in a situation like his current medical condition. Disturbingly, François Lambert’s ties to a French assisted suicide group suggest that his motivation may not be concern for his uncle but an attempt to legalize and “normalize” euthanasia of handicapped persons whose “quality of Life” is deemed unworthy of continued care.
Seventy doctors and medical professionals signed a public letter defending Vincent’s Right to Life and stating that his health could not be assessed adequately while he is not receiving the specialized care needed for minimally-conscious, brain-injured patients. Several appropriate treatment facilities have agreed to take Lambert, but his wife and doctors have refused to move him.
Lambert’s harrowing case highlights the need for strong patient protections that prevent the barbaric treatment of vulnerable patients taking place in France. Although advocates of death often present minimally-conscious patients as “vegetables” whose lives are not worth living, these conditions are not well understood. A recent study showed that at least 20 percent of patients in a so-called “vegetative state” are aware and understand communication but are unable to move or respond.
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