Vincent Lambert is tragically gone, but the legal and spiritual battles will continue
July 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — One day after Vincent Lambert’s death by deliberate dehydration, the tragic story of six years of judiciary battles for and against his life is far from reaching the end. On one hand, a push for the legalization of euthanasia is clearly at work in France; on the other, many voices have been raised condemning a “state murder.”
The Vatican has not remained silent. On Thursday, the day that tetraplegic and brain-damaged Vincent Lambert, 42, died after nine days without food and fluids – except for medication – Pope Francis tweeted:
“May God the Father welcome Vincent Lambert in His arms. Let us not build a civilization that discards persons those whose lives we no longer consider to be worthy of living: every life is valuable, always.”
But the Pontifical Academy for Life and its president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, also reacted via Twitter, writing, “Msgr Paglia and whole Pontifical Academy for Life are praying for the family of Vincent Lambert, for the doctors, for all the people involved in this event. The death of Vincent Lambert and his story are a defeat for our humanity.”
This last message does not radically contradict Paglia’s confusing statements on Lambert the day before he died: the bishop’s commitment to promoting respect for the life of deeply handicapped people such as Lambert was less than evident.
On the judicial front, the case is not yet over. After Viviane and Pierre Lambert learned of the complaint for “attempted murder on a vulnerable person” last Friday, but not completely in relation to it, Vincent Lambert’s mortal remains were transferred to Paris on Friday for an autopsy requested by the chief prosecutor of Reims, the place of his death.
Prosecutor Matthieu Bourrette opened an official inquiry on July 11 in view of “investigating the cause of death.”
During a press conference, he made clear that the inquiry has not been opened to investigate a “murder.”
“It is important to provide the family with the exact causes of Vincent Lambert's death,” Bourrette stated. “And then everyone in the family will decide what they want to do, including on the judicial plane. It is essential to provide the medical and judicial evidence to enable all family members to know the exact causes of death, so that everyone can assume their responsibilities. That is why I met with Vincent Lambert’s parents, brothers and sisters and wife this Thursday morning to inform them of my decision.
“Not opening an investigation could have been interpreted as support for caregivers. Opening an investigation on the charge of murder could also have been interpreted as an a prior condemnation of the process triggered under the Leonetti Act. The investigation into the causes of death is both the most neutral investigation in our criminal procedural arsenal and the one that makes it possible to carry out useful investigations, and to establish the judicial truth.
“I have not opened any investigation against Dr. Sanchez on the charge of attempted murder.
“I decided on an autopsy that will not be carried out in Reims but in Paris in order to be objective because complaints have been filed against the University Hospital, and to be as neutral as possible. At the end of the autopsy, Vincent Lambert’s body returned to his wife, who is his legal guardian.”
Viviane and Pierre Lambert as well as daughter-in-law Rachel, who consistently supported her husband’s being put on an end-of-life procedure, were present at the Medicolegal Institute of Paris where the autopsy took place on Friday morning.
On another judicial front, Gregor Puppinck of the European Centre for Law and Justice wrote in an op-ed for weekly Valeurs actuelles announcing that the demand has been presented to the UN committee for the rights of disabled persons (CRDP) in view of condemning France and its legislation in the wake of Vincent’s death.
“There will be a before and an after. The whole world was at Vincent Lambert’s bedside. Some were moved, others were outraged, while the media crowd shouted: “Unplug him.” Rarely has the death of a helpless man stirred so many passions, except perhaps 2,000 years ago. Together with Vincent Lambert, it is our respect for the weakest that died. It is this love that we tried to kill. Vincent had to be publicly sacrificed to free society from an ancient charity. He had to die to prove our power over death. How else can we explain the relentlessness of the most powerful, and the blindness of the judges?
“But the post-Vincent Lambert era is nothing new.
“It is the eternal return to the cult of strength and will; the return to the not so distant times when lives “that do not deserve to be lived” were suppressed, when, as today, men passed judgment on the dignity of the lives of others. This inhuman world that we are now discovering, made up of eugenics, euthanasia and children on command, was already attempted at the beginning of the last century. But it is now that it is finding the way to fully implement itself. It is into this distorted world that Vincent's sacrifice is causing us penetrate further.
“In this world where people are born and die according to the desires of the powers that be, the memory of true love is gradually fading. Now we are even obliged to prove that life has value, or that a father and a mother are useful. We no longer know what good is. Only desire and the ability to desire still have value. We are entering a world where the only thing that has value is the impossible control of one’s own destiny.
“In this world, instead of the despair that comes with dreams of power, we must restore love and find the charity that alone can save our humanity; that life is victory over death and a source of life.
“Without his parents’ love, Vincent would have died of thirst long ago, in indifference and silence, like so many others before him.
“Without the love of his parents, we would not know that people with disabilities in France are being killed.
“We will continue the fight, following in the footsteps of Bishop von Galen whose courage and faith defeated the Nazi euthanasia program. For Vincent and all his companions in misfortune whose lives are hanging by a thread, we ask the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to condemn France and its legislation.”
The enormous media attention given to the last days of Lambert has triggered a rush to file advance directives, if the pro-euthanasia association ADMD “for the right to die with dignity” is to be believed.
On May 21, the day after the Paris Court of Appeal interrupted the first attempt by Dr. Vincent Sanchez to put an end to Lambert’s life, French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn – former wife of the son of Simone Veil, the minister who at that post gave her name to the French abortion law adopted in January 1975 – called on the French to sign such directives.
She said it was necessary to “avoid such situations” by taking avail of the possibility of leaving precise directions in case of becoming incapable of expressing one’s will regarding the acceptance of medical treatment. This possibility was opened by the Leonetti-Claeys end-of-life law in 2016. It expressly states that administration of food and fluids via a gastric tube constitutes a medical treatment that can be rejected by the patient or decided by a doctor who deems his patient to be subject to “unreasonable obstinacy.”
Until recently, all doctors faithful to the Hippocratic oath would have contradicted this assertion: in the same way as shelter, warmth or clothing, food and fluids are ordinary care that is due to all insofar as it is available and does not harm the patient. Food and fluids certainly do not harm a patient who is not at the end of his life and whose life they sustain, even though they are administered directly to the stomach.
The ADMD has stated that since May 20, the day it seemed Lambert’s life had been saved by the Court of Appeal of Paris, it has been receiving three times more advance directives than before: 150 instead of 50 per day.
These directives take the form of an official document with multiple questions about what should be done in different situations should the patient become incapable of communicating his will. Ordinarily, they can be handed over to one's general practitioner, a family member or a support person, or added to a shared medical file accessible to all medical personnel that patient will be in contact with.
The pro-euthanasia ADMD has set up a centralized platform where these directives can be filed. Where they are not necessarily favorable to suspending care or shortening life, that is the way they are pitched in the media.
Advance directives in France have “unlimited” validity from the moment they have been signed. Thankfully, they can be modified at will. But if a young person signs such directives and forgets about them until he finds himself in a situation such as Lambert many decades later, they will be turned to and the doctor is required to take them into account, although there is some latitude for medical personnel to reject what it considers inappropriate demands.