Vincent Lambert, the quadriplegic man who had been at the center of a debate over state-mandated assisted dying, has passed away aged 42.
Lambert, who had been in a vegetative state for 11 years following a traffic accident, died early Thursday morning, according to relatives cited at the BBC.
Lawyers representing the parents, who were campaigning to save their son’s life, said that in the wake of Vincent’s death the public should “meditate on this State crime.”
“Vincent has died, killed for reasons of the State and by a doctor who has forsaken his Hippocratic oath. This cathedral of humanity that had been burning for a week under our powerless eyes has collapsed. No account has been taken of the dignity of this handicapped man, [who] was condemned because he was handicapped, they said.
“For the first dignity of all is to respect a person’s life. Part of our common humanity has left us today, because this heinous wrongdoing that is shaking the foundation of our laws and civilization affects us all.”
The attorneys added that “the time has come for mourning and silent prayer.”
Last Tuesday, medics started removing life-sustaining equipment from the former nurse after a final ruling by France’s highest appeals court. The protracted legal battle between Vincent’s parents and the French and European court system has now ended.
On Sunday, Pierre and Vivianne watched helplessly as doctors began to remove their son’s water and feeding tubes at Sebastopol Hospital in the northern city of Reims. Vincent was able to sleep and wake up, responded to certain voices, and could swallow and breath on his own, according to Reuters.
The Catholic parents called the court’s decision “madness,” and insisted that Vincent was not brain-dead but merely “handicapped.” They hoped to move him to a specialist facility.
“It’s murder in disguise, it’s euthanasia,” 90-year-old Pierre told reporters, according to the Guardian.
Vincent’s doctor urged the parents to ensure that their “support is as peaceful, intimate and personal as possible,” in the days leading up to his death.
In early May, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ordered both the French courts, and the agreeing European Court on Human Rights, to reverse their decision on Lambert’s withdrawal of treatment, commanding that doctors feed and hydrate Vincent while the committee carried out its own investigation into the case.
In a final ruling, France’s highest legal body, the Cour de Cassation, overruled that appeal and effectively signed his death warrant.