An error has been uncovered in an international tribunal’s ruling that would allow officials in France to euthanize a man seriously injured in a 2008 road accident, according to one of the human rights organizations that argued on behalf of the man.
“This is an obvious and appalling error that is hard to explain. How can the highest European Court, in such a sensitive matter, ignore its own case law, while introducing a significant error at the heart of its argument?” questioned a statement from the The European Center for Law and Justice.
WND reported recently on the case, in which the European Court of Human Rights approved a policy of imposing euthanasia on patients who cannot agree.
It came in a ruling in the case of Vincent Lambert of France.
His parents, sister and half-brother petitioned the court to protect him after he “sustained serious head injuries in a road-traffic accident on 29 September 2008, which left him tetraplegic and in a state of complete dependency.”
He’s been treated in several hospitals, but physiotherapy sessions yielded no results, and doctors determined he was in a “chronic vegetative state,” described as “minimally conscious plus.”
The court found that not only can a bureaucracy decide on euthanasia, the victim’s parents lack the right to intervene.
That decision, according to spokesman Gregor Puppinck of the ECLJ, cited a previous case the human rights body had decided, Glass v. the United Kingdom, in asserting the legitimacy of plans to euthanize the accident victim.
In that case, which was similar to the Lambert case, “the mother of a child hospitalized for respiratory disorders complained about the decision of the medical team to administer to her minor son, against her will, a high dose of morphine that may cause his death,” the ECLJ reported.
“The doctors elected to not resuscitate him in the event of a respiratory crisis. Wishing to defend the life of her son against a medical decision, the patient’s mother brought her case to the ECHR, as in the Lambert case.”
In that case, the same ECHR found, “the decision of the authorities to override the second applicant’s objection to the proposed treatment in the absence of authorization by a court resulted in a breach of Article 8 of the Convention.”
The ruling found “that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.”
So, the ECLJ said, “Doctors should either respect the will of the mother or obtain an injunction against her decision. ”
But the Lambert decision that quoted the earlier precedent said, erroneously, “there had been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention.”
Puppinck noted there is no appeal available from the ECHR’s Grand Chamber. But he said it’s likely there will be some maneuver implemented to get around it.
“One cannot imagine that this error will stay; it shall be removed. Thus, the Lambert case is not closed at the ECHR,” he said.
“To limit the consequences of this error, some will argue that only the final decision of the court matters (i.e. the operative words) and that an error of reasoning does not affect the final decision. The court would have to admit openly – and it is true, that its decision is not strictly deduced from the legal reasoning. Indeed, in fact the court, after having decided on the merits, built its reasoning in order to explain the decision and to develop its doctrinal corpus. This teleological method may have provided the opportunity for error to arise.
“Others will say that to err is human. This is true; but the life of a man is at stake here,” the ECLJ said.
The Lambert case has created a controversy of its own, with judges who dissented in the 12-5 decision writing, “In 2010, to mark its 50th anniversary, the court accepted the title of ‘The Conscience of Europe’ when publishing a book with that very title. Assuming, for the same of argument, that an institution, as opposed to the individuals who make up that institution, can have a conscience, such a conscience must not only be well informed but must also be underpinned by high moral or ethical values. These values should always be the guiding light, irrespective of all of the legal chaff that may be tossed about in the course of analyzing a case.
“It is not sufficient to acknowledge, as is done in paragraph 181 of the judgment, that a case ‘concerns complex medical, legal and ethical matters’; it is of the very essence of a conscience … that ethical matters should be allowed to shape and guide the legal reasoning to its proper final destination. That is what conscience is all about. We regret that the court has, with this judgment, forfeited the above-mentioned title.”
The dissenting judges Lambert is not dead and can breathe on his own and digest food.
“In other words, Vincent Lambert is alive, and being cared for. What, we therefore ask, can justify a state in allowing a doctor … in this not so much to ‘pull the plug’ (Lambert is not on any life-support machine) as to withdraw or discontinue feeding and hydration so as to, in effect, starve Vincent Lambert to death?”
WND reported that the decision recalled the decision a decade ago that ordered doctors to stop providing food and water to Terri Schiavo.
WND reported extensively on the Schiavo case, including on the 10th anniversary of her death.
A care facility stopped giving her food or water in 2005 on court instructions, and less than two weeks later, she was dead.
“If you go back and look at her records, she was starting to form words,” her brother, Bobby Schindler, told WND on that occasion. “It was really encouraging to our family, and to Michael (Terri’s husband) right at first.”
Terri had collapsed in her Florida home for an unknown reason and was taken to a hospital by first responders who feared she was dead. She was comatose for a time, then started responding and was moved to a care center. Her family members say she was getting better.
Then there was a deterioration in Terri’s condition. Bobby Schindler alleges it was after Michael Schiavo, her husband, started dating that he cut off Terri’s therapy and then eventually petitioned the court to withdraw treatment, which included food and water.
“If you look at the timeline, and you see Michael’s actions, you can see that this was all calculated,” Schindler alleged.
The case brought to headlines and kitchen tables across America the plight of those who are seriously brain injured, their rights and whether or not they are cognizant of their surroundings. The case generated four requests to the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, and all were rejected.
Jeb Bush, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, was governor of Florida at the time and filed several documents on behalf of Terri. But eventually, according to his press secretary at the time, he concluded the outcome was “in the court’s hands.”