Doctors Began to Let Him Die. Then, the 'Stunning Twist'

Paris court orders Vincent Lambert's life support to resume
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2019 10:00 AM CDT
Updated May 25, 2019 11:40 AM CDT
Doctors Began to Let Him Die. Then, the 'Stunning Twist'
In this July 23, 2015, file photo, Viviane and Pierre Lambert, left, parents of Vincent Lambert, arrive at Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France, where Vincent, who's currently on artificial life support, is hospitalized.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

On Monday doctors cut the nutrition and hydration that has been keeping Vincent Lambert alive, in what appeared to be the final chapter in an 11-year medical saga. It wasn't: His life support was resumed 12 hours later, reports Reuters, following a Monday night court order from the Paris Court of Appeal. It was a move that had Lambert's mother declaring, "For once I am proud of the courts." Her stance, along with that of her husband's, is opposite that of Lambert's wife, who has sought to have his feeding tubes removed. The latest:

  • Lambert has been a quadriplegic and in a vegetative state since a 2008 motorcycle accident. Though he can breathe on his own and sometimes open his eyes, his wife, Rachel, has maintained he wouldn't want to be kept alive in such a state and had stated as much. He had no written end-of-life directive, however.
  • The New York Times calls the development a "stunning twist" and explains that doctors had already started to give Lambert powerful sedatives when the court order came through. While euthanasia isn't permitted in France, patients who are terminally ill or otherwise unable to recover may be removed from life support and sedated until they die.

  • AFP reports it was thought Lambert could die within days or a week of the nutrition and hydration being withheld.
  • Lambert's parents had turned to President Emmanuel Macron over the weekend, calling on him to insert himself into the 42-year-old's case. "In France, in 2019, no one should die of hunger and thirst," they wrote. Macron demurred, per the BBC, citing the decision that was made "after a constant dialogue between his doctors and his wife, who is his legal representative."
  • Six of Lambert's siblings side with his wife. Two others are aligned with his parents, who maintain that Lambert is technically a disabled person and therefore doesn't qualify for the end-of-life allowance.
  • France 24 reports the court in its ruling said that "all measures" must be taken to keep Lambert alive until the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities can review the case. Lambert's parents had asked the UN committee to intervene, and it requested that it be allowed to do so in a May 3 communication with the French government, reports Reuters.
  • The AP reports it could take years for the UN committee to review the case.
  • Vatican News reports Pope Francis has previously supported keeping Lambert alive, and he tweeted this on Monday: "We pray for those who live with severe illness. Let us always safeguard life, God's gift, from its beginning until its natural end. Let us not give in to a throwaway culture."
(More right to die stories.)

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