By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition [EPC]
We mourn the death of Vincent Lambert, a cognitively disabled man who died by dehydration after France’s highest court ordered that he be denied food and fluid which they defined as medical treatment.
Our online petition pleading that President Macron save his life received more than 138,000 signatures.
While the death of Vincent Lambert is a tragic case of disability discrimination, it is a huge victory that Hannah Cement, a woman in Ottawa, will live until her natural death. (See below.)
In early May 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities intervened in the Lambert case, stating that causing Lambert’s death by dehydration contravened his rights as a person with disabilities.
Section 25f of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires nations to:
Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.
The June 28 decision by the Court of Appeal in Paris was a death sentence and a denial his human rights.
Lambert was a cognitively disabled man who was not otherwise dying or nearing death. To directly and intentionally cause his death by withholding fluids is euthanasia by dehydration. Lambert’s fluids were withheld for the purpose of causing his death, rather than allowing a natural death from his medical condition.
On Thursday the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was informed that Hugh Scher, the lawyer for the Cement family, achieved a negotiated agreement whereby Hannah will continue to be fed and hydrated and receive basic medical care until she dies a natural death.
Hannah Cement is a 62 year-old woman with Down syndrome and dementia, who is a life-long member of an Orthodox Jewish family and community. The substitute decision makers for Hannah, her family, refused to consent to a course of “treatment” that constituted the withdrawal of all treatment and care, including food and fluids, and providing only comfort care.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was granted limited intervention standing, in the court, based on our concerns related to the definition of food and fluid as medical treatment.
In late March, 2019, the Consent and Capacity Board (a judicial body that was established under the Ontario Health Care Consent Act) made a terrible decision in the Cement case, essentially ordering the withdrawal of all medical treatment from Hannah. This would have led to Hannah dying a death similar to Vincent Lambert’s.
The family appealed the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, once again, sought intervention standing in the case.
The news that the doctor, the hospital , and the Cement family reached an agreement to assure that Hannah will continue to receive basic medical care until she dies a natural death is an incredible victory.
While we mourn the death of Vincent Lambert, we are very thankful for the legal agreement to enable Hannah Cement to continue living until she dies a natural death.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.