Life support resumes for vegetative Frenchman after court order

Doctors on Tuesday resumed the life support for a Frenchman who has been in a vegetative state for over a decade, following a court order to restore it hours after the switching off process began.

Life support resumes for vegetative Frenchman after court order
Philip Lambert has been in a vegetative state since a car accident in 2008. Photo: Courtesy of the Lambert Family / AFP

“We have the pleasure to inform you that… the hydration and feeding of Vincent Lambert has been resumed,” said Jean Paillot, a lawyer for the parents who vehemently oppose ending his life, after a ruling late Monday by the Paris appeals court.

“It is not a suspension but a new start,” added the parents' other lawyer Jerome Triomphe, who said the aim now was to have Lambert transferred to a different hospital.

The Paris court ordered authorities “to take all measures” to keep alive Lambert, a 42-year-old quadraplegic with severe brain damage, pending a review by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Earlier Monday, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had rejected a request by the parents to halt the decision over the cessation of life-support pending the review by the UN committee.

Doctors in France Monday morning halted the nutrition and hydration Lambert receives, which is in line with the wishes of his wife and other relatives but sparked the anger of the parents.

The legal saga over the fate of Lambert, who has been kept alive after a traffic accident in 2008, has lasted over half a decade, split his family and divided France.

Lambert's parents, devout Catholics, have repeatedly launched court action to keep him alive, putting them at odds with Lambert's wife and six siblings who believe the most humane course is to let him die.

Before the latest court ruling, Pope Francis had weighed in Monday in favour of keeping Lambert alive.

“Let us always safeguard life, God's gift, from its beginning until its natural end. Let us not give in to a throwaway culture,” the pontiff said.

The issue has also taken on a political importance in France in the midst of the campaign for European elections.

French President Emmanuel Macron Monday rejected calls by Lambert's parents and others to intervene, saying “the decision to stop treatment was taken after a constant dialogue between his doctors and his wife, who is his legal representative.”

The UN committee on disabled rights had this month asked France to suspend the decision while it conducts its own investigation, which could take years.

The French government has said it will note the committee's deliberations but made clear there was no legal obligation for it to abide by them.



Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.