STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – A quadriplegic French patient, who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, should be allowed to die, France’s top court ruled on Friday.
The Cour de Cassation overruled an appeals court which last month had ordered doctors to keep Vincent Lambert alive, just 12 hours after medics had already switched off the man’s life support against his parents’ will.
“This ruling removes the last legal obstacle to ending his treatment,” Patrice Spinosi, the lawyer for Lambert’s wife Rachel, told reporters.
The 42-year-old former psychiatric nurse’s fate has torn apart his family and sparked fierce nationwide debate over the right to die.
His wife and some of his siblings say care should be withdrawn. But Lambert’s Catholic parents, backed by other relatives, say he should be kept alive and have launched a series of legal bids to keep his care going.
The new ruling means that the hospital in Reims, northeastern France, could now again stop the artificial feeding and hydration that have kept Lambert alive since a motorcycle accident in 2008. He has almost no consciousness, but can breathe without a respirator and occasionally moves his eyes.
Euthanasia is illegal in France, but a 2016 a law allows doctors to put terminally ill patients into continuous deep sedation (CDS) by doctors until death. The law draws a distinction between euthanasia and CDS, making France the first country to legislate in such a way.
Euthanasia is permitted in various forms in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg and Canada, while assisted suicide, which involves a doctor helping a patient to end their own life, is permitted in several U.S. states.
(Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Editing by Geert De Clercq)