Europe's rights court upheld Friday the decision of a French court to allow a man in a vegetative state to be taken off life support, in a ruling that could become a benchmark on the continent.
For over a year the fate of Vincent Lambert, who was left severely brain damaged and quadriplegic as a result of a 2008 road accident, has torn apart his family in a judicial tug-of-war over his right to die.
Lambert's mother Viviane says her son is merely handicapped and any attempt to stop life-sustaining treatment would amount to “disguised euthanasia” while his wife Rachel insists he would not want to be kept alive artificially.
A panel of judges at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights voted 12 to five that a French court decision to stop intravenously feeding Lambert did not violate Europe rights laws.
The legal drama began in January 2014, when Lambert's doctors, backed by his wife and six of his eight siblings, decided to stop the intravenous food and water keeping him alive in line with a 2005 passive euthanasia law in France
However, his deeply devout Catholic parents, half-brother and sister won an urgent court application to stop the plan.
In an appeal, the French supreme administrative court, known as the State Council, ordered three doctors to draw up a report on Lambert's condition and in June ruled that the decision to withdraw care from a man with no hope of recovery was lawful.
Lambert's parents then took the case to Europe's rights court which ordered France to keep the patient alive while it decided whether the State Council's decision was in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.