Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Right to Live: An International Struggle

As Canada edges toward legalizing euthanasia, France is facing a minefield of its own over the issue, spurred in part by a French court’s recent decision to refuse a wife’s petition to deny her brain-damaged husband food and water.

Thirty-eight-year-old Vincent Lambert was involved in a car accident five years ago that left him a tetraplegic – paralyzed in all four limbs and in a large portion of his torso as well. Initially, Lambert was considered to be in a persistent vegetative state, but according to LifeSiteNews’ correspondent in Paris, doctors have since changed that assessment to “minimally conscious state,” wherein Lambert is reported to perceive and respond to pain and a general condition of well-being, as well as move his eyes to respond to stimuli and react to the presence of his loved ones. While Lambert cannot, as far as the medical team can determine at this point, communicate meaningfully, he is otherwise physically in good health and is certainly not dead or dying.

That nearly changed nearly ten months ago, however, when Dr. Eric Kariger, head of the geriatric and palliative care unit of the Reims University Hospital, put Lambert on “end of life protocol,” a decision that entailed removing all food from the otherwise healthy man. Kariger based his decision not on Lambert’s physical condition, but on his belief that Lambert would not have wanted to be kept alive, and that his quality of life was essentially non-existent in his current state.

France has consistently denied a right to euthanasia or assisted suicide in the past but did, in 2005, legalize a procedure known as “passive euthanasia,” wherein doctors are permitted to allow death by removing or withholding the treatment necessary to prevent it. Under the law, this decision can be made only by the patient himself or, in the case of an unconscious patient, by a legally designated representative, chosen by the patient himself.

Yet despite the clarity of the law and the fact that Lambert is by no means dying, or even ill, it took 31 days and a vigorous battle by Lambert’s parents to see the man’s nutritional supply reinstated via court order. The emergency injunction was issued based on the fact that the doctor’s decision had been made without consulting the majority of Lambert’s family. The decision was appealed by Kariger and, in a move eerily similar to the United State’s case involving  Terri Schiavo,  by Lambert’s own wife and nephew, both of whom are also fighting for food and water to be removed from the handicapped man, arguing that the decision would be in accordance with his wishes.

In the nine months following the court’s life-saving order, Lambert’s wife and nephew have, along with Kariger, fought vigorously to end the man’s life, forcing France to face the euthanasia debate once again. Most notably, little of the appellate arguments centered on interpreting the actual law. Instead, counsel for Kariger and Lambert’s wife focused mainly on making philosophical arguments that Lambert’s condition renders his life meaningless, and that he would not choose to live this way, if he could.

Full Article and Source:
Wife of France's Terri Schiavo Files Appeal Contesting Court Order to Provide Nutrition, Hydration for Disabled Husband


Thelma said...

I believe in euthanasia, but fear its use for financial exploitation.

Finny said...

I think whether people are pro or con, everyone agrees this is an area ripe for abuse.