French doctors say to end life support in right-to-die case

Vincent Lambert, a quadriplegic man on artificial life support's doctor, Vincent Sanchez, informed his family by email that he intended to start removing life support for him on July 2.
Vincent Lambert, a quadriplegic man on artificial life support's doctor, Vincent Sanchez, informed his family by email that he intended to start removing life support for him on July 2.
Image: FAMILY HANDOUT / AFP

French doctors are set to begin turning off life support on Tuesday for quadriplegic road accident victim Vincent Lambert in what could be the final act in a hugely controversial right-to-die case that has drawn in Pope Francis.

The main doctor treating Lambert, Vincent Sanchez, informed his family by email that he intended to start removing life support in line with a French court ruling last Friday, according to the message which was shared with AFP.

The doctor urged family members to ensure that "support to Mr Vincent Lambert is as peaceful, intimate and personal as possible".

Lambert, 42, has been in a vegetative state since a 2008 traffic accident, with the question of whether to continue keeping him alive artificially bitterly dividing his family and the nation.

After years of legal battles that pitted Lambert's mother against his wife, doctors began removing life support in May before they were forced to reinstate his feeding tubes by a last-minute legal appeal.

But France's top appeals court, the Cour de Cassation, ruled on Friday that life support could be turned off in what was hailed as a definitive legal judgement by a lawyer representing Lambert's wife Rachel.

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

Pope Francis intervened in May when he tweeted to say that it was necessary to "always safeguard life, God's gift, from its beginning until its natural end".

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