French court rules against 'passive euthanasia' in tetraplegic case

President Hollande plans reform of current euthanasia law
President Hollande plans reform of current euthanasia law AFP/Fred Dufour

A court in France ruled against the withdrawal of food and water from Vincent Lambert, a tetraplegic patient who has been in a state of minimal consciousness in hospital for five years, following a car accident.


The ruling goes against the wish of his wife and instead favours the parents’ desire to keep their son alive.

The wife and parents of Lambert have long been in opposition over the issue and in recent months his brothers and sisters have become involved on opposing sides.

The case has received extra attention following François Hollande’s announcement on Tuesday, in line with his election promise, that his government plans a tightly-framed law which would allow "medical assistance to end one's life in dignity".

At the moment euthanasia is illegal in France, though doctors are allowed to end or refrain from using treatments or care judged “disproportionate”, whose only result is the artificial prolongation of life. This is sometimes called passive euthanasia.

The doctors in Reims treating Lambert argued that his case was in this category, as he is being kept alive using nutrition and hydration tubes.

A recent survey showed that 92 per cent of French people would like some sort of reform to the current French position on euthanasia.

The Catholic Church is firmly opposed to euthanasia. Although the majority religion in France is Catholicism, the church has no official power except for its influence on people’s thinking on questions concerning life, marriage and death.


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