Bioethics storm over hydration and nutrition of patient

Doctors at a French hospital have decided not withdraw hydration and nutrition from a quadriplegic man who has been at the centre of a bioethical debate.

Vincent Lambert became a quadriplegic and was left in a comatose state after a motorcycle accident in 2008.

In 2013, Lambert’s wife and six of his eight siblings asked courts to rule that his hydration and nutrition be disconnected.

In response, his parents, who are Catholics, initiated a legal fight to protect their son’s life.

The case went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, which approved the removal of hydration and nutrition.

French end of life law allows the suspension of treatment in futile cases.

The Catholic Church in France has protested that Lambert is not undergoing any treatment, but is simply receiving food and water via a feeding tube.

He is not in a vegetative state as such, given that his body reacts to certain stimuli and is able to feel pain.

The hospital in Reims said it did not intend to switch off the machine sustaining the patient.

“This procedure cannot go ahead given the current lack of calm and certainty,” doctors explained.

They referred the issue to the health ministry last Thursday.

Doctors had reportedly feared that there could be plot by pro-life activists to abduct Lambert from the hospital and kidnap members of his medical team.

Lambert’s nephew said the doctors’ decision to continue hydration and nutrition was due to intimidation.

Public prosecutors have been asked to look at the case.

The row over Vincent Lambert is similar to a legal fight over Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who suffered brain damage in 1990 and was left in a vegetative state.

Eventually her husband won a protracted court case to have her feeding tube removed and she died in 2005.


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