Europe court tells France to suspend right-to-die ruling

Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:07am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Brian Love and Chine Labbé

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights has told France to maintain life support for a tetraplegic man who has spent nearly six years in a coma while it examines a last-ditch appeal by his parents.

The request from the rights court late on Tuesday came just hours after French judges ruled doctors should be allowed to end medical support that has kept Vincent Lambert artificially alive since a motorbike crash in September 2008.

Lambert's plight and another case where a court on Wednesday acquitted a doctor charged with accelerating the deaths of seven terminally ill patients by lethal injection is prompting calls for a revamp of France's ambiguous laws on euthanasia.

The court's request is set to delay by months or even years the outcome of a legal battle where Lambert's parents are resisting his wife Rachel's attempts to withdraw life support.

The Strasbourg-based court said in a statement the case would be treated "according to the fastest procedure possible". A spokesman there acknowledged that even emergency procedures can take months or up to one or two years.

Lambert, a former nurse in his late 30s, has been in a coma since his accident and is in a vegetative state. His medical team was set to turn off feeding and hydration equipment before his parents secured an injunction last January.

Few countries in the world explicitly permit euthanasia or assisted suicide, and Lambert's case has sparked renewed debate over President Francois Hollande's promise to revise France's rules on the issue.

A 2005 law on patient rights and care for the terminally ill leaves grey areas regarding more passive forms of euthanasia, stating that patient treatment should not involve "excessive obstination", according to government information services.   Continued...

Francois Lambert, the nephew of Vincent Lambert, who is tetraplegic and currently on artificial life support, speaks to journalists after the verdict in a judicial case at the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) in Paris, June 24, 2014. REUTERS/John Schults