France’s top court to decide Friday if brain-damaged Vincent Lambert lives or dies
June 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The heat wave that has left France gasping for water under temperatures of over 100°F is taking on special meaning this week as the fate of Vincent Lambert, the brain-damaged and quadriplegic young man whose doctors, wife and several siblings want to “let die” by depriving him of food and fluids, is once again in the balance.
A hearing took place on Monday at the French Court of Cassation (the highest judicial court in France) in Paris. Its decision will be made public on Friday, June 28, at 5 p.m. local time.
Television and radio shows, as well as announcements in public areas, repeat obsessively that people should take care to drink regularly so as not to risk dehydration. For Viviane Lambert, who together with her husband and two siblings of Vincent has been fighting for her son’s life for the last six years, this advice is bitter indeed: the highest authorities of the land have made clear that they want him to die of thirst.
As for Vincent Lambert, he is at the time of writing still a prisoner in a small hospital room without air conditioning in the northern town of Reims, where the heat is even more scorching than in Paris. The list of his visitors has been severely cut down over the last few years and all those who do have access to his locked room, even his father and mother, are required to leave their ID cards at the nurses’ desk. He has become a hostage of the culture of death.
The defenders of Lambert’s life have been on an emotional roller coaster for the last few months. In April, the Council of States, which judges administrative affairs, rejected Viviane and Pierre Lambert’s appeal against a doctor’s decision to stop all nourishment and hydration patient through his gastric feeding tube on the legal grounds that food and fluids are purported to be “treatment,” not care, and that sustaining the life of his patient amounted to “unreasonable obstinacy,” which France’s end-of-life law prohibits.
Dr. Vincent Sanchez of Reims announced that he would shortly proceed to start the end-of-life procedure as outlined by the “Leonetti Law” during the week starting May 20.
In the meantime, the UN Committee for the Rights of Disabled Persons accepted a request from Lambert’s lawyers, Jérôme Triomphe and Jean Paillot, to examine the case. On May 3, it officially issued a provisional measures ruling demanding that France abstain from implementing a decision to stop his food and hydration, pending its own ruling, which is expected not to be handed down for several years.
Agnès Buzyn — France’s health minister who was formerly married to the son of Simone Veil, herself the health minister who carried and signed in to law the infamous bill that legalized abortion in 1974 – said her government did not consider itself bound by the UN committee’s demands, even though France is a signatory of the optional protocol by which it commits to abide by the committee’s decisions.
On May 20, Dr. Sanchez, without informing Viviane and Pierre Lambert or David and Anne, Vincent’s siblings who are fighting for his life, put Vincent in deep sedation – legally but not medically irreversible – and pulled his feeding tube.
On the eve preceding that day, Vincent cried when his mother came to see him, something he had only done once before in 2013 when his feeding tube had been pulled for the first time. His parents were sure that Sanchez had told him of his plan.
On May 20, that same day at 10:30 p.m., the Court of Appeal of Paris acknowledged that the French administration was abusing its power in depriving a citizen of his right to life and ordered Vincent to be fed and cared for while the UN committee examines his case. Lambert’s lawyers went to Reims at dawn the next day to verify that Vincent was again being fed and hydrated.
That would have been the end of the case if the French government had not taken the affair to the Court of Cassation, which judges whether the law has been correctly applied, once again putting Vincent’s life at immediate risk.
This is despite Emmanuel Macron’s assurances that he did not intend to intervene in the case, when Viviane Lambert publicly implored him to act in order to prevent her son from being killed.
The French president tweeted Monday afternoon, May 20:
“All medical reports have concluded that his (Vincent’s) condition is irreversible. The decision to stop treatment was made after an ongoing dialogue between his doctors and his wife, who is his legal guardian. It was made in accordance with our legislation which allows care to be suspended in the event of unreasonable obstinacy – which, according to the various medical teams, is the case with Vincent Lambert.”
In a second message on Twitter, he added:
“As a man, as all French people, I have put this question to myself, for myself and for my loved ones, a question that concerns the most intimate part of each person; there is no simple or univocal answer, only uncertainties and conflicts. Behind the conflicts, I can hear anguish: in France, can one decide arbitrarily on the death of a citizen? It is precisely because this is not the case, because there is no room for arbitrariness in our country, that I must not interfere in the decision of carers and of the judiciary that was made in the case of Vincent Lambert.”
When a judicial authority ruled in favor of his life, however, the French government did interfere.
The French judicial system also showed unheard of speed in setting a hearing in front of the Court of Cassation within weeks of the submission of the case, ordering the affair to be heard by all 19 heads of chambers in solemn formation.
At the hearing on Monday afternoon, Viviane and Pierre Lambert were represented by Claire Lebret, who insisted that there is no “urgency” compelling doctors to act in order to put an end to Vincent’s life and that France should respect the UN Committee’s ruling by not implementing a measure that by its very nature is the ultimate instance of irreversibility.
“What exceptional reasons could prevent taking these provisional measures in Vincent Lambert’s favor? There is no urgency to kill him, his condition is stable, he breathes alone, he does not suffer,” she underscored. She added that failure to comply with the provisional measures would prevent the UN Committee from examining the appeal, the right of access to which France has granted its citizens.
“The Court of Appeal has taken the only decision that would not have an irreversible effect,” added Lebret.
Speaking for the powers that be in his capacity of Procurator General, François Molins, who chose the Lambert case to make his first public appearance at the Court of Cassation to which he was named in November 2018, at first insisted that the magistrates are required to answer the legal question posed by a decision by three judges who went against the highest administrative courts in France and also the European Court of Human Rights in reversing the decision to “let” Vincent Lambert die (of thirst … ).
The question was not, he stressed, that of “Vincent’s end of life or the merits of medical decisions concerning him.”
But later, countering the Court of Appeals’ decision founded on Lambert’s right to life, he revealingly stated: “To consecrate the right to life as a supreme value would have the effect of questioning the Leonetti laws or those regarding voluntary interruption of pregnancy” (legal abortion).
Now this is an unexpectedly candid recognition of the true nature of the anti-life bills that have become law in France over the years. They truly rest on the principle that life is not sacred, that there is no right to life, and that a human life can be taken in various situations by the will of third parties or of medical and governmental authorities.
Molins also clearly acknowledged, so saying, that France’s end-of-life laws do make euthanasia – albeit slow euthanasia – possible, insofar as right to life must be considered a relative “value” for end-of-life and abortion laws to subsist.
Guillaume Lecuyer, the lawyer representing the French government who is pleading for Lambert’s death by dehydration, made this “dizzying” statement, according to bioethics journalist Jean-Yves Nau. Insofar as the Appeals Court judges considered that Lambert’s right to life was being violated by the state, they made their decision “on the basis of a spurious anthropomorphic reasoning based on the idea that when there is no life, there is no liberty.”
“Anthropomorphic or not, there is a question one would like to put to Guillaume Lecuyer, lawyer for the French State: according to him, are the dead free?” asked Jean-Yves Nau.
Molins asked the judges not to send the affair back to another Court of Appeal as is the rule when an Appeals Court decision is overturned. He asked them to make a final decision – it will be the 36th in this protracted judicial battle – next Friday, going into immediate effect.
François Lambert, Vincent’s half-nephew who has campaigned for his death and who was also represented during the Cassation hearing on Monday, gleefully told the media that at 5 p.m. next Friday, all the Reims hospital will have to do will be to turn to the last paragraphs and lines of the Court of Cassation’s arrest and pull Vincent’s feeding tube at 5:01.
He called himself sure of a decision favorable to Vincent Sanchez’s decision to put an end to Lambert’s life, explaining that the number of judges implied will avoid running into a majority of judges “who are fanatical like Vincent’s parents.”
“Do you think the parents of Vincent Lambert get a kick out of going from court to court?” a journalist asked him.
François Lambert replied, “Yes, clearly. The reaction of the mother of Vincent was not so different from that of her lawyers. She was exulting. And that is after all the reaction of people who never ask themselves any questions.”
Viviane’s lawyers, Triomphe and Paillot, have already said that they will not give up on Vincent’s life if the Court of Cassation agrees that he should die, but are not giving further details for the moment.