Frenchman Vincent Lambert dies after being removed from life support

HO / Courtesy of the Lambert Family / AFP

The 42-year old quadriplegic had been at the center of court battle over whether to continue his food and hydration.

Vincent Lambert, a severely disabled 42-year old Frenchman, died on Thursday morning in a French hospital, nine days after doctors removed his feeding tubes.

Lambert, who was left a quadriplegic after sustaining head injuries after a 2008 traffic accident, had been at the center of a protracted legal battle over whether to continue his food and hydration.

Upon the news of Lambert’s death, Pope Francis tweeted, “May God the Father welcome Vincent Lambert in His arms. Let us not build a civilization that discards persons those whose lives we no longer consider to be worthy of living: every life is valuable, always.”

“We received with grief the news of the death of Vincent Lambert,” said the ‘ad interim’ Director of the Holy See Press office, Alessandro Gisotti, in a statement.  “We pray that the Lord receive him into His house and express our closeness to his loved ones and all who, until the last moment, have committed themselves to assist him with love and dedication,” Gisotti wrote.

“Let us remember and reaffirm,” he said, “what the Holy Father said, intervening on this painful event: God is the only master of life from the beginning to the end of nature and it is our duty to guard it always and not to give in to the culture of waste.”

The legal battle over Lambert’s care pitted his wife and six of his eight siblings who advocated having his food and hydration removed against his devoutly Catholic parents who fought to have life support continued. 

A 2005 French law allows doctors to refrain from using “disproportionate” treatments “with no other effect than maintaining life artificially” to treat terminally ill patients. 

In 2015, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that doctors could remove Lambert’s life support. On June 28, the Court of Cassation ruled that a lower court did not have standing to order that food and hydration be continued. Then on July 2, doctors informed the family that food and water would be withdrawn.

The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, who fought for continuing Lambert’s life support, on July 9 wrote to priests of his archdiocese asking them to offer Mass for Lambert.

“Dear brothers,” he wrote, “it is now the time for contemplation, for compassion, and for prayer for Mr. Vincent Lambert. Either today or tomorrow I suggest that you celebrate Mass for his intention and entrusting him to the Lord, the God of mercy. This intention can also be extended to all of his relatives.”

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