European Court of Human Rights Orders France to Maintain Life Support for Tetraplegic

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has handed down a suspension of a French Council of State ruling. Photo: CherryX for Wikimedia Commons.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has handed down a suspension of a French Council of State ruling. Photo: CherryX for Wikimedia Commons.

On Tuesday, June 24, the European Court of Human Rights suspended the decision made just a few hours before by French Council of State to end treatment for Vincent Lambert, a 38-year-old tetraplegic man who has been in coma for six years. The Court ordered France to maintain the man’s life support before any final ruling be made.

Vincent Lambert has been tetraplegic and in vegetative state after a road accident in 2008. The Council of State, the supreme court for administrative justice in France, decided Tuesday afternoon in favor of Vincent Lambert’s doctors and his spouse, to cut off his life support.

The Council of State stated that ending the treatment “corresponds to the will” of Vincent Lambert, who is only kept alive “artificially.” Lambert’s wife supports the decision. “I knew it was a life he would not have wanted,” she said in an interview with LeMonde.fr.

However, in opposition to Lambert’s doctor and his wife, Lambert’s mother claimed to protect his son from “death” and “murder.” The parents thus made an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights the night before the Council of State’s release of its decision.

The suspension order from the European Court of Human Rights is based on a legal clause that gives the Court the right to impose urgent and temporary measures on states when there is a real risk of grave and irreversible damage. Nevertheless, this temporary suspension order does not overrule the Council of State’s decision. It usually takes several months before a final ruling, with a maximum three-year delay.

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