Life support ruling overturned in controversial French coma case

Viviane Lambert, mother of French quadriplegic Vincent Lambert, arrives at Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France.
Viviane Lambert, mother of French quadriplegic Vincent Lambert, arrives at Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (DPA) - France's top court on Friday (June 28) paved the way for an end to life support for a man at the centre of a bitter years-long battle over end-of-life treatment.

The Court of Cassation overturned a May 20 appeal court ruling that ordered the state to maintain life support for Vincent Lambert while a United Nations committee on disability rights examined the case.

The issue has divided Lambert's family. He was seriously injured in a 2008 car crash and has since then been in a state of minimal consciousness and, in recent years, a persistent vegetative state.

Lambert's wife, nephew, and several siblings backed a 2013 decision by his doctors to end life support; his parents and two other siblings opposed it.

Lambert's parents, supported by conservative Catholics, have brought and lost cases before French courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in repeated efforts to prevent his life support being ended.

French media reported in May that the Rheims hospital where Lambert is treated had already begun withdrawing artificial feeding hours before the appeal court ruling that was overturned Friday.

The new ruling meant there was "no longer any legal recourse... that could suspend the end of treatment," Lambert's wife's lawyer, Patrice Spinosi, told journalists after it was handed down.

But the parent's lawyer, Jerome Triomphe, threatened to bring a prosecution for "murder" if Lambert's life support was turned off, news agency AFP reported.