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Vincent Lambert: treatment has been withdrawn. His mother, “he is not in end-of-life stage”. The bishops, “why so much haste?”

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

Vincent Lambert’s life-support has been withdrawn this morning. “It is shameful” since his “parents could not even embrace their son”, Jean Paillot, the lawyer of Vincent Lambert’s parents, told AFT. The doctors will suspend artificial nutrition and hydration, and keep him under “profound and continued sedation” until his death. But Vincent Lambert’s parents do not want to give up and are doing everything in their power to keep their son alive. Having already appealed to the President of the Republic, their lawyers announced they would file three new appeals in an attempt to stop the withdrawal of treatment. Indeed, life support for the 42-year-old former nurse was discontinued today, Monday, 20 May. Vincent Lambert’s case is taking centre stage in the debate ahead of the European elections. The man, who has been in a vegetative state for 11 years, is at the centre of a legal battle between his wife, Rachel Lambert, who has asked several times that treatment be withdrawn, and his parents, who are opposed to the withdrawal. After several appeals were dismissed, the doctors of Reims announced that today they would discontinue artificial nutrition and start sedating Mr Lambert, who suffered “irreversible” brain damage in a car accident in 2008. The green light came from the French Conseil d’État on 24 April, based on the will expressed by Mr Lambert, a former nurse, before the accident. His parents, Viviane and Pierre Lambert, have made a last appeal to Emmanuel Macron against what they call a form of “disguised euthanasia”. But Jean Leonetti, the father of the 2016 end-of-life law, replied that “the President of the Republic cannot supersede the power of the judicial and medical decisions”.

 

Yesterday, 200 people gathered outside the hospital in Reims where the man is hospitalized. Among those present, alongside his parents, were representatives of the medical world, such as the members of the “Union Nationale des Associations de familles de traumatisés crâniens (UNAFTC)” and Dr Catherine Kiefer, an expert in the field of brain-damaged patients. “It is disguised euthanasia”, Viviane Lambert told the press, with great suffering. “Vincent is not in the end-of-life stage. It is not a situation of ‘unreasonable obstinacy’”, she added, denouncing the “false claims” of the medical tram about the situation of her son. The UN’s International Committee dealing with the rights of persons with disabilities has also intervened in the debate, calling on France not to stop the life-support care of the 42-year-old quadriplegic. Some days ago, the Archbishop of Rheims, Mgr. Eric de Moulins-Beaufort (the recently-elected president of the French Bishops’ Conference), and his auxiliary bishop, Mgr. Bruno Feillet, also spoke about the case. “Experts seem to agree – their statement reads – that although Vincent Lambert has been dependent since his accident, he is not at the end of his life”. The decision not to move him to a unit specialised in treating vegetative and minimally conscious patients comes, therefore, as a surprise.

 

Along the same lines, Bishop Pierre D’Ornellas, head of the working group on bioethics of the French Bishops’ Conference, said in a statement: “Vincent Lambert has a right to adequate protection, just like any other disabled person. Any person with disabilities, no matter how fragile, has the same rights as everyone else”. And recalling the opinion given by the United Nations CIDPH Committee, he asked: “Why such haste in leading him to death? Again, we can say that the decision concerns only Mr Vincent Lambert because his situation is unique and complex. But who will ensure that all persons with a disability like his will be effectively protected by the State, which despite its official pledges seems to have failed to honour its commitment to date? The credibility of the State depends on whether it honours its word”.

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