French doctors have begun switching off the life support of a quadriplegic man who has been in a vegetative state for the last decade, in a hugely controversial case that has divided France, reports The Guardian.
The dispute over the fate of Vincent Lambert, 42, who was left with severe brain damage after a traffic accident in 2008, has split his own family and even become a subject of political tension in France ahead of the weekend’s European elections.
His parents, devout Catholics, have repeatedly launched court action to keep him alive, putting them at odds with Lambert’s wife and five siblings who believe the most humane course is to let him die.
Following a final judicial ruling to end the nutrition and hydration Lambert receives, doctors on Monday started halting his life support at the Sebastopol hospital in the northern French city of Reims.
Medical sources said it meant Lambert would die within days or a week.
Jean Paillot, the lawyer for Lambert’s parents, said they would launch multiple legal challenges in a last-ditch bid to prevent Lambert dying, including with the Paris court of appeal and the criminal court of Reims.
Vincent Sanchez, the doctor treating Lambert who has been the target of the parents’ anger, said in a message to the family that the “halting of treatments” and “profound and continued sedation” had been initiated.
In the message seen by AFP, he urged everyone to “rally around him [Lambert] so these moments are as peaceful, intimate and personal as possible”.
The parents’ lawyers said at the weekend they wanted Sanchez removed from the case and also struck off France’s medical register. In a statement, the lawyers accused Sanchez of “violating all his obligations”, adding: “There is still time to stop this madness.”
The family has been deeply split by the case.
“They are monsters, monsters,” said his mother Viviane, 73, as she came to the hospital on Monday. A day earlier she had organised a demonstration outside with her husband Pierre, 90.
“I want to see my son before he goes to sleep.”
But Lambert’s wife, Rachel, five of his siblings and his nephew François have all backed the decision to begin switching off the systems, agreeing that this is the humane path given his condition.