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Right to die: Court backs France in Vincent Lambert case

News from BBC News

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld the decision of a court in France to allow a paralysed man to be taken off life support.

Vincent Lambert, 39, has been in a coma for seven years after a motorcycle accident left him tetraplegic.
His family have been split over whether he should be kept alive.
The case was taken to the European court last year after France’s highest court had ruled in favour of ending his life support.

It sparked fierce debate in France where euthanasia is illegal, although doctors can withdraw care under a 2005 passive euthanasia law.
The court in Strasbourg ruled on Friday that the decision to stop intravenously feeding Mr Lambert did not violate European rights laws.

‘No relief, no joy’

Mr Lambert has been kept alive with the use of intravenous food and water at a hospital in Reims in north-eastern France.

His wife Rachel and some of his brothers and sisters had agreed with doctors’ recommendation that his life should be ended as there was no hope of recovery.
The doctors said Mr Lambert had shown signs last year of resisting treatment, and Rachel Lambert said her husband would “never have wanted to be kept in this state”.

“There’s no relief, no joy to express. We’d just like his will to be done,” she said after the ruling.
But Mr Lambert’s parents – who are said to be devout Roman Catholics – and other siblings say he has shown signs of progress and believe he just needs better care.

“They are trying to make us say we don’t want him to go, but it is not at all the case, we don’t want him to be snuffed out,” his mother Viviane said earlier this year.
They took the case to Strasbourg after France’s highest court ruled last year in favour of ending Mr Lambert’s life support.

And their lawyer hinted before the ruling that they would fight on if it went against them.
Jean Paillot said the decision to stop life support “was taken by a doctor and can only be carried out by this doctor”, who is no longer in charge of Vincent Lambert’s care. He said they would seek a new medical decision through the French courts.


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