UN Committee Intervenes to Prevent Man being Dehydrated to Death
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has intervened to halt moves to withdraw food and fluids from a disabled man in France. The case centres around Vincent Lambert, a 42 year old former psychiatric nurse, who was left cognitively disabled and in a minimally conscious state after a motorcycle accident injury in 2008.
In 2014, doctors at the hospital in Rheims, backed by Mr Lambert’s wife Rachel, five of his siblings and his nephew Francois decided to stop his nutrition and hydration as permitted by French law. This would, inevitably, have resulted in Mr Lambert dying of dehydration.
Pierre and Viviane Lambert, his parents, as well as two of his siblings, have spent the last six years fighting to prevent this. Since the legal battle first began, the French courts have largely backed the doctors, upholding a decision earlier this year to withdraw Mr Lambert’s life support.
France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, recently ruled that Mr Lambert must in his own “interests” be deprived of food and fluids and placed under deep sedation until he dies. On April 30, the European Court of Human Rights rejected appeals on behalf of Vincent’s life as it had already done previously in 2015.
However, the UN CRPD has now agreed to examine the case, and has asked France to suspend the decision to halt the intravenous food and water keeping Mr Lambert alive while it conducts its own investigation.
In response, France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said while the UN’s request is not legally binding, it would abide by it. “We are not legally bound by this committee, but of course we will take into account what the UN says and we will respond” she said.
SPUC. May 8.