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French court to rule in ‘passive euthanasia’ case

© AFP: Vincent Lambert's parents await the verdict

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-24

A French court is due to rule on whether a 38-year-old man who has been in a vegetative state for six years should be allowed to die, in a case that has torn his devoutly Catholic family apart.

The State Council, which is made up of 17 senior judges, will announce their decision at 4pm Paris time (GMT+2) Tuesday.

Doctors treating Vincent Lambert in the northeastern city of Reims, as well as his wife, nephew and six siblings want to cut off intravenous food and water supplies under a 2005 French law that allows for “passive euthanasia”.

But his deeply religious Catholic parents, another brother and another sister oppose the decision and took the matter to court in Chalons-en-Champagne near Reims, which ruled against ending his life earlier this year.

An investigation run by three court-appointed doctors has since concluded that Lambert is in a “completely unconscious vegetative state” and recommended ending his life support.

Rémi Keller, advocate general to the State Council, on Friday urged judges to follow the investigators advice and allow Lambert to die, saying his treatment had “no other effect than to artificially maintain his unconscious solitude” and that there was no hope of recovery.

Vincent is ‘still with us’

"I would like the [report’s] conclusions to be followed by the State Council, that we let Vincent go peacefully, with dignity," his wife Rachel told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday.

But his parents, meanwhile, have already lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in case of a ruling in favour of passive euthanasia. The European body said on Tuesday it would make an announcement immediately after the State Council gives its verdict.

Pierre and Viviane Lambert insist their son, the victim of a 2008 car accident, is still “with us”.

“Vincent is not a vegetable,” his mother told BFM TV. “I cannot conceive how the judges could possibly follow the [investigators’] recommendations.”

Lambert’s nephew François, who has been vocal in calling for Vincent to be allowed to die, told AFP: “All the evidence points towards terminating his treatment. But the day the State Council says his life support should be switched off, I won’t be jumping with joy.”

The question of whether he should be kept alive artificially comes at a time of intense debate in France over euthanasia, as the high-profile trial of a doctor accused of poisoning seven terminally-ill patients takes place.

Dr Nicolas Bonnemaison, 53, is accused of pushing the boundaries of the 2005 “passive euthanasia” law by actively shortening the lives of terminally ill patients.

His trial is due to end later this week.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-06-24

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