The parents of Vincent Lambert, a severely brain-damaged patient at the heart of a bitter right-to-die case, said Monday they were “resigned” to his death after French doctors stopped his life support.
Lambert was involved in a near-fatal car crash in 2008 that left him a quadriplegic with severe brain damage which doctors say is irreversible.
Since then, he has been kept alive artificially, sparking a years-long legal struggle, with his deeply-Catholic parents and two of his eight siblings, fighting to keep him alive.
But his wife, his doctors, six other brothers and sisters and a nephew have fought for his right to die, arguing it is the more humane option.
On June 28, France‘s top appeals court ruled doctors could begin removing the life support in a process that began last week despite frantic last-minute efforts by his parents Pierre and Viviane.
“We have nowhere else to turn and now it’s too late. Vincent is dying,” they said in a statement sent to AFP through their lawyers, adding his condition was now “medically irreversible”.
“This time it’s over,” they wrote.
Their letter was welcomed by Marie, one of Lambert’s younger sisters, who supported his right to die.
“I’m very surprised. It’s hard to believe after all the years they spent fighting legally. I think it’s reasonable and respectful,” she told AFP after leaving her brother’s bedside.
She had earlier met Dr Vincent Sanchez who reassured her that Lambert was “not suffering” thanks to the drugs in his system.
“We are in the last stage of the process. The effects of dehydration are now being felt but we don’t know how many days it will take,” she said.
“This waiting is very painful for everyone.”
Lambert’s nephew Francois also said he was “relieved” on hearing of the letter.
Both parents were at Lambert’s bedside on Sunday after doctors began removing his water and feeding tubes while ensuring a “profound and continuous sedation”.
In their letter, the parents said they had made huge efforts to ensure “that the suspension (of the process) requested on Vincent’s behalf by the UN committee on disabled rights was respected. But it was in vain.”
In May, a UN committee on disabled rights, based in Geneva, asked France to keep Lambert alive while it conducted its own investigation into the matter. But the French government rejected the request as non-binding.
“It’s murder in disguise, it’s euthanasia,” 90-year-old Pierre Lambert told journalists on Sunday at Sebastopol hospital in the northern town of Reims, where his son has been in a vegetative state since 2008.
Denouncing the court decision as “madness”, the parents believe their son is only handicapped and have fought to have him moved to a specialist treatment unit.
Their lawyers had on Friday filed suit for “attempted murder by an organised gang” at a court in Reims, judicial sources said.
A group of supporters who oppose the ending of life support were to have held a demonstration in Paris Monday, but called it off at the last minute after Lambert’s parents said his death was “now unavoidable” and they were “resigned” to accepting it.