An official with France’s highest court has said that a minimally conscious, severely injured man should be denied food and hydration, countering prior rulings that doing so would violate his right to life.
Remi Keller, public rapporteur with France’s Council of State, issued a recommendation that Vincent Lambert, 39, had no hope of recovery or enjoying a positive effect from the food or hydration that is keeping him alive.
Keller’s recommendation now goes to the court’s highest panel, composed of 17 judges. They will issue a final decision June 24 concerning whether to end Lambert’s life, the BBC reports.
Lambert was incapacitated in a car accident six years ago.
His fate has become the center of a legal controversy. Lambert’s wife and physicians have said that his intravenous food and water should be removed.
His parents and two of his siblings took the case to court to continue his nourishment.
In January a panel of nine judges in Chalons-en-Champagne ruled that Lambert should continue to receive food and hydration. Removing food and hydration is “a grave and clearly illegal attack on the fundamental right to life,” the panel said.
They added that Lambert is “neither sick nor at the end of his life.”
Euthanasia is illegal in France. However, a 2005 law allows physicians to refrain from using “disproportionate” treatments “with no other effect than maintaining life artificially.”
French president Francois Hollande, a member of France’s Socialist Party, plans to change the law next year to allow medically assisted suicide.
The bishops of France reiterated Catholic teaching against euthanasia in a January 2014 document, stating that God’s commandment “thou shall not kill” is “the foundation of all social life respectful of others, especially the most vulnerable.”
The bishops pointed out the contradiction in seeking to prevent suicide in society while also allowing it in some cases.
While Catholic ethics does not require extraordinary means to preserve life, it recognizes the provision of food and hydration as ordinary standard care.