French Hospital Rules to Euthanize Disabled Man Against Parents’ Wishes

Doctors warn of heart risk from some breast cancer therapies
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

The Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France, has ordered the removal of food and water from their patient Vincent Lambert, who suffered severe trauma to the skull in an automobile accident in 2008 that left him a quadriplegic.

After several months of consultations with hospital staff, Lambert’s physician Dr. Vincent Sanchez ruled Monday that continuing to feed and hydrate the patient constituted “unreasonable obstinacy” towards the disabled patient and ordered that he be euthanized within ten days, despite the fact that he breathes on his own and his internal organs function normally.

The case of Vincent Lambert has been likened to that of Terri Schiavo in the United States, a woman in a “permanent vegetative states” who was euthanized in 2005. In both cases, the spouse advocated for the removal of nutrition and hydration while the parents of the patient fought for the life of their child.

At the time of the Terri Schiavo case, the Vatican’s top bioethicist Bishop Elio Sgreccia said that starving Schiavo to death would be a “pitiless way to kill” someone. Sgreccia—who was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2010—has rendered a similar judgment in the case of Lambert, which has been made available to Breitbart News.

In his ethical analysis, Sgreccia noted that a vegetative state constitutes an extremely grave situation of disability, but that it is always potentially reversible. He also made the critical observation that a person like Lambert in a vegetative state is not terminally ill and may still live a long time when treated with care. Removing Mr. Lambert’s nutrition and hydration would be a violation of the man’s basic human rights, he stated.

In its ethical judgment, the Catholic Church allows for the refusal of “aggressive medical treatment” for terminally ill patients when it is considered futile or overly burdensome, but considers the administration of nutrition and hydration to be part of the normal care due to a sick person. Withholding nutrition and hydration, on the other hand, constitutes an act of passive euthanasia, which leaves the person to die of starvation.

Doctors already attempted to euthanize Lambert in the spring of 2013 by removing the source of his nutrition and reducing hydration, but were stopped when his parents—devout Catholics—brought the case to the administrative court of Châlons-en-Champagne, which ordered the hospital to resume feeding and hydration.

A series of court proceedings regarding the fate of Mr. Lambert began in 2013 and have continued up to the present. In June 2015, the French Supreme Court and then the European Court for Human Rights ruled that Lambert’s feeding tube could be removed without breaching his rights, saying that continuing feeding the patient artificially could constitute a disproportionate treatment.

In the ongoing public battle over Vincent Lambert, a group of NGOs led by the Lejeune Foundation gathered more than 80,000 signatures opposing subjecting Lambert to euthanasia and posted a video on the internet showing Lambert moving his head and his eyes.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

.