PARIS – A top court in France on Friday paved the way for removing life support from a man who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade after a year-long legal battle in a milestone case of the right to die.
The court in Paris struck down a lower court ruling that ordered doctors to continue artificially feeding and hydrating the patient, Vincent Lambert, 42, a nurse injured in a car accident in 2008.
Mr. Lambert did not leave written instructions on his killing wishes, and his family has been bitterly divided about his treatment. His parents and other relatives say he does not suffer and must be kept alive. His wife, Rachel Lambert and others say he would not have wanted to live this way and had to be taken out of life support.
"There are no more legal obstacles to the resumption of resumption the end of treatment right now, "said lawyer Patrice Spinosi to reporters in Paris.
Still, it was not immediately clear when Mr Lambert could be taken away from life support. A lawyer for Mr Lambert's parents threatened to file a murder complaint if the doctors went ahead with the procedure.
Doctors had refused to take Lambert out of life support in 2015 despite a legal order that allowed it because they said there were not enough "serenity and security" in cases after hospital staff received anonymous threats.
Medical experts define a vegetative condition as a condition where the part of the brain that controls thought and behavior no longer functions, but important functions such as sleep cycle, body temperature control and breathing persist. Such patients can sometimes open their eyes and have basic reflexes, but they do not have meaningful responses to stimulation and do not show any signs of experiencing emotions.
Doctors first decided to remove Mr. Lambert from life support in 2013 in consultation with his wife, after many years of physical therapy and care had failed to improve his condition. But his parents opposed the decision and got a court ruling that reversed it.
. But hours later, a court of appeal in Paris admitted a legal challenge filed by his parents' lawyers to halt the process.
The Court ruled that France should put Mr Lambert back on life support until he brought his case by a UN-affiliated body, Committee on Disability Rights, where Lambert's parents had referred to his case and who had requested that the French state continues to feed and hydrate him.  On Friday, the Cour de Cassation, the Supreme Court of France, concluded this decision.
Although euthanasia is illegal in France, the law allows "passive euthanasia" in which terminally ill or injured patients without chan detention are taken from life support and put on intense anesthesia until their death after extensive consultation with their families and medical experts.
Herr. Lambert's parents, observant Roman Catholics, supported by life activists, claim that he is not terminally ill, but disabled, and that he does not fall under French law on killed decisions.
Mr. Lambert's wife and her followers point to several medical assessments that found her husband to be in an irreversible vegetative state and that judgments that cited artificial means to keep him alive were "unfair obstinacy" as defined in French law . The Cour de cassation had to conclude a legal issue arising from the existence in France of two parallel legal systems: an administrative which handles claims against national or local authorities or against public authorities and a court that handles criminal proceedings and disputes between private parties.
Until last month, Mr Lambert's case had only been dealt with by administrative courts because it involved the public hospital that treated him, and his parents' legal challenge with Paris appealed to court – a court – was in largely expected to fail.
But the Court of Appeal held that Lambert's situation was the rare exception in which a court can intervene in such cases – when the French State violates a person's personal freedom. "
The Cour de cassation stated in its ruling on Friday that the Court of Appeal had taken over and that Mr Lambert was not in a situation of arbitrary detention where his personal freedom was in danger.
French law allows hospitals In order to "cease giving lively treatments to a patient" under certain circumstances, the court noted in a adding that several administrative courts and the European Court of Human Rights had taken advantage of Lambert's wife.
The French State which the court concluded, was not bound by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities "to support Mr Lambert on life support.