GENEVA (Reuters) – The mother of a quadriplegic French man who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade brought her case to the United Nations on Monday, seeking diplomatic pressure for maintaining his life support.
France’s top court ruled last Friday that Vincent Lambert should be allowed to die. The Cour de Cassation overruled an appeals court which in May 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.
His artificial feeding and hydration have continued since the latest ruling.
The 42-year-old former psychiatric nurse’s fate since a 2008 motorcycle accident 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His wife and some of his siblings say care should be withdrawn.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.
“I am launching a call for help today. Without your intervention, my son will be euthanized due to his brain handicap. He is in a state of minimal conscience but he is not a vegetable,” his mother, Viviane Lambert, told the U.N. Human Right Council in Geneva.
“He sleeps at night, wakes up during the day, and looks at me when I talk. He only needs to be fed through a special device and his doctor wants to deprive him of this so that he can die, while legal experts have have shown that this is not necessary.
“In May, when learning about his planned death, he cried. We are deeply upset this is why we have turned to the U.N. Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities because the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities prohibits depriving a person of food and drink. This would be a discrimination,” she added.
That panel, composed of independent human rights experts, had twice asked France to prevent her son from dying, she said, adding: “But the government has refused to uphold its international obligations.”
Lambert urged the 47-member-state rights council to intervene with France to “remind it of its obligation to respect” measures prescribed by the U.N. committee and to “not let my son die.”
It was not just about her son but the lives of “hundreds of thousands of people who share the same situation”, she said.
There was no immediate reaction by France’s delegation.
(Reporting and writing by Stephanie Nebehay with additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by Mark Heinrich)