By Dave Andrusko
Early this morning Vincent Lambert was placed in an “end-of-life” process, meaning he is now being deprived of both food and water. Unless there is a miracle, the 42 year-old Lambert will die, primarily of thirst, in the next few days.
Lambert’s family is bitterly divided. His parents are adamantly against withdrawing his sustenance while five of his siblings and his wife, Rachel, favoring what is called “passive euthanasia” in France.
Mr. Lambert’s parents’ lawyer, Jean Paillot, called the doctors’ decision “scandulous.”
“Vincent is neither sick nor at the end of his life, he is disabled,” Mr. Paillot told the news outlet BFM TV on Monday.
“The procedure was initiated by Dr. Vincent Sanchez of the University Hospital of Reims, contrary to his commitment, without warning his family,” according to Jeanne Smits. “Vincent’s mother, Viviane, was not even given the chance to say goodbye to her son, for whose life she has been fighting since the first unsuccessful attempt to make him die by starvation in April 2013.”
There had appeared to be a ray of hope for Mr. Lambert on May 3 when the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a United Nations-affiliated body, asked France to delay the decision to halt Mr. Lambert’s life support while it investigated.
“But Agnès Buzyn, the French health minister, has said that the committee’s decisions are not binding and that all legal appeals have been exhausted,” Smits reported.
Vincent Lambert “is neither at the end of his life nor suffering from an illness, but in a state of altered consciousness after a traumatic brain injury,” explained Grégor Puppinck, Director, The European Centre for Law & Justice [ECHR]. “He breathes alone, wakes up in the morning and falls asleep at night. Although having gotten his swallowing reflex back, he is fed and hydrated through a simple gastric tube. He can, according to the moments and the stimulations, turn his head or follow his interlocutors with his eyes, which is a sign of conscience for the specialists.”
None of that was persuasive to hospital officials or to The Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, or to the European Court of Human Rights, which both ruled last month that Mr. Lambert could be starved and dehydrated to death.
Even if there is a temporary reversal, Mr. Lambert is already receiving strong doses of sedation (“deep sedation”), required when hydration and nutrition are withdrawn. But as Smits asked, “What sort of sedation was given to Vincent, and can its effects be reversed?”
Vivian Lambert “saw Vincent for the last time on Sunday evening, following a public demonstration in front of the Reims hospital asking Dr Sanchez to stay execution and to respect the CRPD,” Smits wrote.
An emotional video of that last encounter was broadcast on the internet: it shows Vincent crying while his mother tells him how little hope was left.