Euthanasia back on the boil in France

Vincent Lambert   

Euthanasia is once more on the front page of French newspapers with two high-profile case in the courts.

The case of Vincent Lambert echoes the protracted legal wrangle over Florida woman Terri Schiavo before she died in 2005. Lambert, a 39-year-old fireman in Rheims, has been living in a “minimally conscious state” for five years after motorcycle accident. He is also a quadriplegic.

His wife, six siblings and his doctors want normal hydration and nutrition to be withdrawn so that he will die. Although Lambert had left no advance directives, family members testified that he had said that he would not want to be kept alive in such a state.

His parents, two siblings and the French state want to give him normal hydration and nutrition, thereby extending his life indefinitely. “He is not sick, he is not at the end of his life, he is not suffering,” Jean Paillot, a lawyer for the parents, told the media. “From our perspective, there is no reason to stop feeding or hydrating him.”

This week the Conseil d’Etat, or council of state, backed his wife and ordered Lambert’s nutrition and hydration to be withdrawn. However, the parents immediately appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which has issued an injunction to keep the man alive until it can study the matter.

According to the French edition of Slate, about 1,500 to 1,700 people in Lambert’s condition are being kept alive in French institutions.

Coincidentally, this week years in a criminal court came to an end for Dr Nicolas Bonnemaison. He had been accused of euthanasing seven patients who were at the end of their lives. A jury found him not guilty and declared that he had  taken medically justified decisions to end the agony of his patients, even though one of the drugs was a banned poison.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | artificial nutrition and hydration, euthanasia, France

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