Reims, July 12, 2019: Vincent Lambert, the severely disabled Frenchman who was at the centre of a legal battle, died on July 11 in Reims, France.
In a tweet on Thursday morning, the Pontifical Academy for Life said Lambert’s death was “a defeat for our entire humanity.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah also took to Twitter to comment on his death, saying Lambert “died as a martyr”.
On July 7, doctors stopped feeding and hydrating Lambert after a final court ruling allowed doctors to end life support and remove his water and feeding tubes.
This prompted Archbishop Michael Aupetit of Paris to ask priests to offer Mass for Lambert.
Aupetit wrote, “It is now the time for contemplation, for compassion, and for prayer for Mr. Vincent Lambert. Either today or tomorrow I suggest that you celebrate Mass for his intention and entrusting him to the Lord, the God of mercy. This intention can also be extended to all of his relatives.”
Lambert’s case has been in the courts for years after his wife and parents battled over whether Lambert should be allowed to die or continue to be kept alive by life support.
A former nurse, Vincent Lambert, was in a car accident in 2008 that left him a quadriplegic and with severe head injuries.
Rachel Lambert, the wife of Vincent Lambert, and six of Lambert’s eight siblings all believed that he should be taken off life support, but Lambert’s parents, devout Catholics, insisted he be kept alive.
Lambert’s wife claimed he told her he did not want to be kept alive if he was in a vegetative state, but his request was never put into writing and there was no official record of his wishes.
In 2013, Lambert’s wife first consulted with doctors on his removal from life support, which doctors approved after Lambert’s condition had not improved for years, but his parents opposed the decision and obtained a court ruling reversing the decision.
A court order permitted the hospital to terminate life support in 2015, but the hospital declined due to anonymous threats against the hospital staff.
Lambert’s case progressed through several courts, but in June, doctors, with the permission of his wife who had become his legal guardian, terminated his feeding and hydration and began to give him strong sedatives to ease any pain until he died. Lambert’s parents again filed a court appeal.
On June 28, France’s highest court overturned the appeal and on July 7, doctors followed the court order, removing Lambert’s life support.
Current French laws do not permit euthanasia, but do allow passive euthanasia, where a terminally ill patient with no chance of recovery can be removed from life support and until their death while heavily sedated.
Earlier this week, Lambert’s father said his son’s impending death was “murder in disguise”.
On July 3, Pope Francis tweeted: “We pray for the sick who are abandoned and left to die. A society is human if it protects life, every life, from its beginning to its natural end, without choosing who is worthy to live or who is not. Doctors should serve life, not take it away.”