Vincent Lambert: the court denies the request for ceasing treatment

On October 9, 2015, the administrative court in Châlons-en-Champagne denied the request to cease treatment for Vincent Lambert as his nephew, Francois Lambert had demanded.

Thus, the judges followed the recommendation of the public rapporteur and felt that the doctors at the Reims hospital were within their right, in virtue of their professional independence, to refuse to put an end to the life of Vincent Lambert.

The nephew’s request that the Reims Hospital should enforce the January 11, 2014 decision made by Dr. Eric Kariger to suspend feeding and hydration of the young man in a minimally conscious state following a serious car accident, was consequently dismissed.

For the judges, the doctor, who had refused to decide cutting off food and hydration on July 23, whereas he had initiated new proceedings aiming at a possible decision to halt treatment, acted “in accordance with his professional and moral responsibilities”. According to the administrative court, the decision to halt treatment can only be made “ individually by the doctor in charge of the patient”, with the hospital not being able to oppose this decision. The judges equally esteemed that a previous medical decision could not be imposed to a new doctor.

It is noteworthy that several other legal procedures are pending.

On the one hand, the prosecutor in Reims solicited the guardianship judge to name someone as guardian. It is expected that the guardianship judge, as an independent and impartial magistrate, will name an administrator outside of the family circle within the coming weeks. The scope of his assignment will also be described, especially his ability to demand or not Vincent Lambert’s transfer to another establishment.

On the other hand, Vincent’s’ parents had solicited legal recourse on two points:

  • On July 16, 2015, they filed a complaint against the Reims hospital and the doctors for “attempted assassination on a vulnerable person” and against Rachel Lambert, Vincent’s ex-wife, for “forgery and falsification of records”.
  • On September 10, they filed a subpoena against the hospital, with the District Court in Reims, requesting the transfer of their son to another establishment more adapted to his condition. They consider that there is “a grave neglect in fulfilling the obligations of medical care towards Vincent” especially because of the absence of physical therapy since the end of 2012.

At several intervals, they requested that the Reims hospital transfer their son “to one of the six establishments who had proposed to receive him”, a request that has been refused until now. Indeed, a patient can be legally transferred to another health establishment, on the condition that he himself has expressed his agreement for the transfer, which Vincent is unable to do in his present condition.

The naming of a guardian might get things moving again. However, it isn’t certain that the future guardian might be able, or willing to do so. This is why Vincent’s parents want to oblige the hospital to transfer their son quickly, to a place which would be more adapted for patients with brain lesions.

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