A Frenchman at the center of a landmark right-to-die case has taken his last breath. Vincent Lambert, a quadriplegic with severe brain damage following a 2008 motorcycle accident, died Thursday, some nine days after his feeding tubes were removed at Reims' Sebastopol Hospital, per the BBC. He was 42. His wife, Rachel—who became Lambert's guardian in 2016—argued her husband should be removed from life support because he'd clearly stated that he wouldn't want to live in a vegetative state, per the New York Times. But Lambert's Roman Catholic parents argued removal from life support would mean the murder of a disabled person. The subsequent court case divided family members before France's highest court decided doctors could stop feeding and hydrating Lambert at the end of June. He was then placed under heavy sedation.
"Vincent Lambert was killed by his own doctor because he was disabled," says his parents' lawyer, per the Times. Lambert could breathe on his own and occasionally opened his eyes, which the paper notes is sometimes seen in patients in vegetative states. In a tweet, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life calls Lambert's death "a defeat for our humanity." A nephew, however, describes Lambert's death as "a real relief." He "had been the victim of irrational medicine for years," he tells the Times. "It had to stop." While euthanasia and assisted suicide are barred in France, patients with no chance of recovery can choose to stop treatments aimed at "artificially maintaining life." The decision may be deferred to family members if a patient's wishes are unknown. Rachel Lambert said the court-approved decision was the humane thing to do. "To see him go is to see him as a freed man," she said in May, per CNN. (Read more Vincent Lambert stories.)