French govt appeals court ruling on vegetative man's life support

Paris (AFP) –


The French government said Friday it had filed an appeal against a Paris court ruling ordering that life support be resumed for a man in a vegetative state for over a decade, the latest move in a long legal fight over his fate.

Vincent Lambert, 42, has been kept alive since a traffic accident in 2008 left him a quadraplegic with severe brain damage that doctors eventually determined was irreversible.

But his parents have fought for years against a move by his doctors, backed by his wife and five of his siblings, to remove life support systems, creating a major debate over the country's right-to-die laws.

After securing backing from a court, doctors were to start removing his water and feeding tubes while inducing sedation this month at the hospital where he has been treated in Reims, northwest France.

But in a last-minute ruling, a Paris appeals court ruled on May 20 that the life support must be maintained while Lambert's case is examined by the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The government had already said it was not legally bound to wait for the UN committee's decision, and on Friday the health ministry said it had appealed to the Court of Cassation, which rules on questions of law and judicial disputes.

"A request for appeal was filed this morning" on behalf of both the health and the foreign ministries, a health ministry official told AFP.

The case has rekindled a contentious debate over France's right-to-die laws, which allow so-called "passive" euthanasia for severely ill or injured patients with no chance of recovery.

But Lambert's parents, staunch Catholics, have repeatedly launched legal action to keep him alive, saying their son's chances of recovery would improve if he were given better treatment.

The case has drawn in Pope Francis, who said on Twitter that it was necessary to "always safeguard life, God's gift, from its beginning until its natural end."