UN weighs in on right-to-die
A UN committee has asked France to suspend any decision to withdraw life support for a man kept alive in a vegetative state for a decade, weighing in on a bitterly-disputed legal case which has torn his family apart. The move by the UN committee on disabled rights was the latest twist in a long-running legal drama that has ignited a heated debate in France on the right to die. The case centres on the fate of Vincent Lambert who suffered severe brain damage after a car accident in 2008 which left him a quadriplegic. Since then, he has been kept alive through artificial nutrition and hydration at a hospital in Reims, northeastern France.
In 2014, the doctors, backed by Lambert’s wife Rachel, five of his siblings and his nephew Francois decided to stop his nutrition and hydration in line with France’s passive euthanasia law. But his parents, deeply-devout Catholics, and his half-brother and sister obtained a court order to halt the move on grounds his condition might improve with better treatment.
Speaking late Saturday, Jerome Triomphe, a lawyer for Lambert’s parents, said the UN committee had asked France to suspend a decision to halt the intravenous food and water keeping him alive while it conducts its own investigation. “The application has been filed and this international committee has begun its investigation,” he said, indicating it could take “several years”. With the inquiry under way, the committee had asked France to ensure that Lambert’s care was continued, in line with the conventions on disabled rights, Triomphe said.
In response, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said although France would answer the UN committee, it was not under any legal requirement to abide by its request. “We are not legally bound by this committee, but of course we will take into account what the UN says, and we will respond,” she told BFMTV on Sunday. “All the legal appeals have been exhausted and all judicial bodies, both national and European, confirm that the medical team in charge of his case has the right to halt (Lambert’s) care.”