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Vincent Lambert: mgr. Éric de Moulins-Beaufort (Reims), “Let French society not commit itself on the way to euthanasia”

“Let our French society not commit itself on the way to euthanasia”. This is the call that ends the statement made by mgr. Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, archbishop of Reims (also recently appointed president of the French Bishops’ Conference), and by mgr. Bruno Feillet, auxiliary bishop, about the “Vincent Lambert” case about the quadriplegic man who has been in a vegetative state for 10 years and who has become the symbol of the debate about end-of-life in France. Yesterday, his doctor, Dr Sanchez, announced that as from May 20th he will stop the treatment that keeps his patient alive. A veritable legal battle has been fought in France and Europe about the fate of the 42-year-old Vincent Lambert, paralysed since 2008 as a result of a car accident. The doctor’s decision has been taken in enforcement of the latest ruling passed by the Council of State on April 24th to act upon the decision to stop treatment, which Lambert’s parents are opposing to. “Vincent Lambert’s human and medical condition – the directors of the diocese where the young man has been treated write – is complicated in itself. Deciding which treatment may be suitable for his condition is difficult. Any judgement would be quite delicate”. The two bishops think that Lambert’s case “is one of its kind and should not be applied to other cases”. And they point out: “The specialists seem to agree, however, that, while he has been dependent since his accident, yet Vincent Lambert is not at the end of his life”. The decision not to move him to a unit that specialises in the support of vegetative and minimally conscious patients comes, therefore, as a surprise. “Having to die one day is part of man’s condition and greatness. It should be kept in mind in a time in which some people claim the right to die when and how they choose”. “But not leaving a human die from hunger or thirst and doing all it can to keep appropriate treatments through to the end concerns the honour of a humane society. Affording to give it up, because some treatment is expensive or because it would be useless to let a human being live, would ruin the efforts made by our civilisation. The greatness of mankind consists in considering the dignity of its members, especially the weaker ones, inalienable and inviolable”. The bishops point out that there are excellent facilities and staff in France that can take in vegetative and minimally conscious patients such as Vincent Lambert. Hospital staff, doctors and families: “mutual trust between such different people – they write – is a prerequisite for good support. Many people find that such support, though difficult, helps make them more human. Society has a duty to help them”.

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