UN Requests that France Not Condemn Vincent Lambert to Death


The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), is composed of independent experts in charge with implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). On May 3, this UN Committee requested from France “interim measures”: the decision, rendered by the French Council of State on April 24, to stop nutrition and hydration for Vincent Lambert, should not be executed.

The Council of State rules unreasonable obstinacy

Indeed the French Council of State upheld Dr. Sanchez’s decision made a year ago on April 9, 2018, “to stop treatment” (nutrition and hydration) for Vincent Lambert, ruling it to be a medical case of unreasonable obstinacy.

Earlier this year on January 31, the Administrative Court of Châlons-en-Champagne had upheld this decision as being legitimate, based on three experts’ opinion. The report confirmed Vincent Lambert’s irreversible pauci-relational state, although continuing his food and water was not considered to be unreasonable obstinacy and furthermore, if deemed appropriate, he could be transferred to a specialized health care unit.

Following the French State Council’s recent ruling to stop Lambert’s food and water, his parents’ lawyers lodged two final and decisive appeals: to the ECHR and the CRPD.

New Appeal Refused by the ECHR

On April 30, the ECHR refused “the requests for interim measures that were submitted in order to suspend enforcing the French State Council’s ruling on April 24 2019, which would ban Vincent Lambert from leaving France” and stop his nutrition and hydration.

This ruling thus substantially confirmed the first decision made in June 2015 after multiple legal proceedings, which validated Dr Kariger’s decision (April 2013) to stop Vincent Lambert’s feeding and hydration.

Remember that Dr. Sanchez took over the Lambert case, when Dr. Kariger left the University Hospital in Reims. Sanchez then reinitiated the collegial procedure, rendering an identical decision as that made in April 2018. (Click here for a summary of the legal procedures dating from 2013 onwards).


Lambert’s state of health complies with UN committee’s definition of disability

The appeal for “provisional measures” lodged by Lambert’s parents’ was accepted by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Their objective is to keep Vincent Lambert alive, by maintaining his food and water. These emergency measures do not constitute any anticipated prejudgment of the Committee’s decision regarding the admissibility or the merits of the case which will be examined later.

This Committee is composed of 18 independent experts appointed by the member states. Like the ECHR, it can be called upon whenever national recourses have been depleted. It is charged with monitoring that the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CIDPH) is properly enforced. France has adhered to this convention since 2010.

The French Human Rights Defender Jacques Toubon, responsible for ensuring France’s compliance with the CIDPH, states in the guidebook (dated December 2016, page 10): “After examining the communication and investigating the case within the State in question, the Committee issues the recommendations deemed necessary, for the State to implement the appropriate measures to correct the situation.”

France ratified this international convention for the protection of disabled people, and the additional protocol which establishes the CIDPH’s competence, allowing groups or individuals to seize this committee to intervene on their behalf. France now has six months to provide explanations.  French Health Minister, Mrs. Buzyn, considers that France is not obliged to follow the recommendation of the Committee adding that France intends to respect this procedure and take into account, in good faith, the recommendations which could be made.

As a human rights expert explains: “According to international law, compliance with the UN committees’ opinions are not compulsory, although the UN committees endeavor for their decisions to be binding. Generally, the States show their willingness to comply. Otherwise, the committee’s authority would be undermined.”

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