On November 18, 2018, a report of experts was published on Vincent Lambert’s case. This expert medical report was ordered on April 20 by the Administrative Court in Châlons-en-Champagne, France. This followed the announcement on April 9, 2018 by the Reims Medical Center of stopping treatment (hydration and nutrition) within a 10-day time frame, in opposition to Lambert’s parents’ wishes and prior to a decision rendered on their appeal to the court. The last medical report was in 2014.
Vincent Lambert’s condition has already been the subject of several judicial entanglements due to the ongoing family conflict and opposing viewpoints from his wife, his parents, siblings as well as his nephew.
According to the principal factors in the press reports, the medical experts have concluded that Vincent Lambert’s condition remains stable. They describe him to be in an “irreversible chronic neuro-vegetative state, and …unable to regain consciousness”. “Having extremely or totally limited capacities (…) is affecting him to an unacceptable point for himself, his wife and his legal tutor.”
Nevertheless, they note that Vincent’s care does not constitute “overly burdensome medical treatment” nor “unreasonable obstinacy”, but that his care is appropriately adapted for his “basic due care, (including nutrition, hydration, skin protection, elimination of waste, and necessary hygiene)”.
By refusing to qualify Lambert’s care as unreasonable obstinacy, the medical experts are referring to the 2016 French End-of-Life law known as “Claeys-Leonetti”. A major issue in this legal text concerns stopping treatment when a person can no longer express himself clearly. The French Public Health Code, in Article L. 1110-5-2 stipulates: “When the patient cannot express his will and, in order to refuse unreasonable obstinacy mentioned by Article L. 1110- 5-1, in the case where the doctor stops life-supporting treatment, the latter may implement deep and continuous sedation until death, combined with analgesia, to alter consciousness until death.”
The experts also point out that the current situation “does not call for any emergency measures” and that “there are facilities in France that can accommodate him until the end of life, if the Reims University Medical Center is unable to keep him for reasons other than mere medical techniques”.
Until now, the Court has refused Vincent’s transfer from the Reims University Medical University to a more suitable care unit.
A hearing must be held at the Administrative Court of Châlons-en-Champagne on December 19, before a final judgment is rendered on the parents’ appeal contesting the doctor’s decision for stopping treatment.