Family of 7-year comatose Frenchman protest ‘right to die’ ruling by EU court

Family members and their lawyer are protesting a European Court of Human Rights decision, which ruled that Frenchman Vincent Lambert’s life support could be switched off. He has been in a vegetative state for seven years.

“The possible development on Vincent’s condition, in my opinion, is not lawful criteria to decide the question whether his life should be maintained or not,” Jean Paillot, the Lambert family’s lawyer told RT.

He said he agrees that when a patient “is in really bad condition and maintaining him alive is equal to suffering."

“But is it lawful to switch off the patient from his source of life maintenance?”

Paillot added there is “no proof to the state of conscience” of Lambert who has been in a deep coma following a motorcycle accident in 2008.

“And this absence of proof does not constitute evidence to the lack of conscience. No one knows what he thinks, or what he feels.”

The ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on June 5 in fact backed an earlier decision of France’s Council of State, a top administrative court, saying that, after almost seven years in a coma, Lambert can be switched off life support.

Following the court ruling, a number of Lambert family members released a video on a Christian Family website, in which they claim he was interacting with them.

In the footage, relatives say the 39-year-old seems to be somewhat responding to his half-brother as well as his mother’s voice via mobile phone.

“He reacts strongly with his brother. There is much interaction between them. Eye contact is kept,” says a man’s voice in the video, maybe Vincent’s half-brother or one of his friends.

The Lambert case has not only divided society, but also his family. His wife, six of his siblings and his doctors argue he should have the “right to die,” while his parents, two sisters and a half-brother say otherwise.

According to Rob Jonquiere, communications director at the World Federation of the Right to Die Societies, treating Lambert is “futile.”

“Vincent Lambert has been in a permanent vegetative state for seven years and medical treatment is futile in my opinion. …I don’t think it will be sensible to give him more treatment,” he told RT.

Social media users were also divided by the court’s decision. Some of them praised the court’s decision, saying that he should be allowed to “rest in peace.”

“After years of suffering, the ordeal of Vincent Lambert can be over. Let him rest in peace. This was the right decision by ECHR,” @Zhuresh said on Twitter.

“ECHR has made a right and humane decision for Vincent Lambert who now can pass away just like he wanted,” added @NawakNawak.

Others criticized the ruling, saying it’s inhumane to kill someone who can’t speak.

“This is disgusting to kill someone who cannot talk,” wrote @csmajor11, while @DejanteDu44 added: “Don’t let the handicapped people die from hunger and thirst.”

READ MORE: French legislators to debate 'deep sleep' end-of-life option

Following 2005 legislation in France, doctors can suspend treatment for patients who ask for it under certain circumstances. Doctors are obligated to provide palliative care to reduce the pain and suffering of those patients. Similar laws are in effect throughout most of Europe.

However, a handful of European countries allow euthanasia – permitting doctors to actively assist patients to end their lives. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland – as well as Oregon, Washington, and Vermont in the United States – allow doctor-assisted suicide.