A Catholic mother has begged the United Nations to stop her son’s “murder,” after France’s highest court ruled his feeding tube could be removed, allowing the 42-year-old former psychiatric nurse to starve to death.
“Without your intervention, my son, Vincent Lambert, will be euthanised by a doctor, because of his mental disability,” Viviane Lambert told the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva on Monday.
“I humbly beg you to remind France of its obligation to respect the interim measures prescribed by the Committee and not kill my son,” the devout Catholic mother said in her heartrending appeal.
A few hours before addressing the UN Human Rights body, Mrs Lambert spoke at an event organised by the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and maintained that removing her son’s feeding tube would amount to “murder.”
Vincent is not a vegetable. I have never seen a vegetable turn its head when you call its name.
“Vincent is not at the end of his life; Vincent is not a vegetable. I have never seen a vegetable turn its head when you call its name,” Mrs Lambert told the ECLJ.
Vincent Lambert sustained serious head injuries in a motorcycle accident on September 29, 2008, leaving him in a state of complete dependency.
On June 28, the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest appeal court, ruled that the life-support mechanisms keeping the severely brain-damaged man alive could be turned off “from now on.”
The ruling reversed a decision by the Paris Court of Appeal on May 20 ordering that Lambert’s feeding tubes be reinserted, just hours after Dr. Sanchez sedated Lambert at the Reims University Hospital, removing his hydration and nutrition to cause death, without even waiting for his family to kiss him goodbye.
Pope Francis, tweeted his support the same day insisting it was necessary to “always safeguard life, God’s gift, from its beginning until its natural end.”
Earlier, Vincent’s devoutly Catholic parents, Pierre and Viviane, had appealed to the Paris Court of Appeal after the European Court of Human Rights rejected their appeal to save Lambert’s life.
David Philippon and Anne Tuarze, Mr Lambert’s half-brother and sister, have supported the parents in fighting a six-year legal battle to keep their loved one alive against the wishes of the doctors and Vincent’s wife, Rachel.
Rachel Lambert says her husband had told her he would not want to be kept artificially alive if in a vegetative state — a position he never put in writing. Her lawyer urged the court to “definitively end the affair by allowing the decision of the medical profession to halt treatment to be implemented.”
Six of Lambert’s siblings and a nephew also believe the most humane course is to let him die.
The cliffhanger drama is being repeated, as earlier, on April 9, 2018, the doctor in charge of Lambert had decided to withdraw the patient’s artificial nutrition and hydration and to combine this stoppage with deep and continuous sedation.
On May 3, 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which received an application by Lambert’s parents, asked France to “take the necessary measures to ensure that Vincent Lambert’s enteral nutrition and hydration are not suspended while the Committee is processing his case.”
The French government rejected the UN Committee’s request, on the grounds it was not legally binding.
Vincent’s parents were told that their son’s euthanasia would begin on May 20.
On the day of the planned euthanasia, Michel Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, issued a press statement: “Have we become mere waste?”
Calling Lambert’s case “emblematic of the society in which we want to live,” Archbishop Aupetit said that “civilisation was facing a very clear choice” to treat human beings “as functioning robots which could be eliminated or sent to the scrapheap when they are no longer useful,” or “consider that the right of humanity is founded not on the usefulness of its life but on the quality of its interpersonal relationships which reveal love.”
The archbishop compared Lambert’s case to that of Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher, who despite his severely brain-damaged state can enjoy highly specialised care in a private environment.
Civilisation was facing a very clear choice to treat human beings as functioning robots which could be eliminated or sent to the scrapheap when they are no longer useful.
Condemning the ease with which euthanasia is procured in Belgium or Holland, Aupetit said: “Children are heard speaking quite naturally of the euthanasia of their parents as if this were a normal eventuality. … Why does one never hear mention of countries which have a higher ethical conscience such as Germany or Italy?”
Aupetit added: “Christ has shown us the only way to grow in humanity. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ And he gives us the only way of expressing this love, ‘There is no greater love than to give one’s life for those whom one loves.’”
A day before the archbishop’s statement, Catholics, joined by people of goodwill, protested in prayer and hymn-singing in front of the University Hospital of Reims, using the hash-tag “Je suis Vincent Lambert.”
Critics have accused Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, for equivocating, saying that “in the face of such situations, no human decision can be guaranteed to be perfect.”
The ECLJ has lambasted the French government citing Adolf Hitler, who issued a decree in 1939 establishing a programme for exterminating disabled persons, “granting a merciful death to the patients who, according to human criteria, will have been declared incurable after a critical examination of their state of health.”
The case has rekindled a charged debate over France’s right-to-die laws, which allows so-called “passive” euthanasia for severely ill or injured patients with no chance of recovery.
Pro-life campaigners fear that if Lambert is euthanized, 1,700 other persons in the same state of health could suffer the same fate.
Dr. Grégor Puppinck, Director General of the ECLJ emphasised: “Vincent Lambert is neither at the end of his life nor suffering from a serious, an incurable or a degenerative illness, but in a state of altered consciousness after a traumatic brain injury,” adding:
He is not dying and can still live for many years. According to the testimony of his parents, his friends and leading medical specialists, he breathes alone and has no cardiac assistance; he wakes up in the morning and falls asleep at night. Some of his emotions can be seen on his face. Sunday evening, on the eve of the beginning of the euthanasia, a video showed him crying with his mother.
France’s atheist President Emmanuel Macron has rejected calls by Lambert’s parents to intervene to keep him alive, saying the decision to stop treatment “was taken after a constant dialogue between his doctors and his wife, who is his legal representative.”
However, other humanists have rallied to support the battle against euthanasia. “Lambert’s death will only serve a social purpose. There are no medical reasons at all for it. French society will be stepping off a moral precipice should it decide to starve Lambert to death,” writes Kevin Yuill, author of Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalisation.
Euthanasia is technically illegal under French law, but doctors can sedate a person in Lambert’s condition and withdraw treatment and nutrition.
Lambert’s case follows the high-profile drama of 23-month-old Alfie Evans who died in 2018 after his parents fought a legal battle to save him from being starved to death.
(Originally published in Church Militant. To comment on this piece, click here)