In a court decision reminiscent of the ruling a decade ago that ordered doctors to stop providing food and water to Terri Schiavo, the European Court of Human Rights now also has “reintroduced into the European legality” the option to euthanize a disabled person.
Euthanasia already was used during the Nazi regime in Germany, for which offenders were convicted at Nuremberg.
The European Center for Law and Justice says it was “precisely against this ideology that the European Convention on Human Rights was proclaimed in 1950.”
Now, the European Court of Human Rights has approved the 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.
In a statement from Gregor Puppinck of the ECLJ, which argued for the man’s life, the 12-5 vote “held that a state may cause the death of a patient in a minimally conscious state.”
Puppinck said the court “not only held that in Europe, we can again legally induce the death of a disabled patient who did not ask to die, but in addition, it denies that patient the protection of the convention against mistreatment.”
“By refusing to guarantee the right to life and to medical care for Vincent Lambert, the court is turning a page in the history of human rights in Europe,” he said.
“The court reintroduced into the European legality the possibility to euthanize a disabled person, even though it is precisely against this ideology that the European Convention on Human Rights was proclaimed in 1950,” said Puppinck.
“In 1946, during the Nuremberg trials, physicians who practiced euthanasia of disabled persons were convicted. These convictions founded contemporary medical ethics. In this sense, the National Consultative Committee on Ethics … in its recent comments had clearly confirmed the ethical prohibition of ending the life of a patient.”
He said that today, the “‘European Court of Human Rights in good health’ revives a fatal practice we hoped to be gone in Europe.”
“For the first time, the court grants a ‘margin of appreciation’ to states in their positive obligations to respect the lives of people.
“This decision puts at risk the ‘legal death’ of tens of thousands of patients in Europe who are in the same situation as Vincent Lambert. The respect for their right to life is no longer guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights,” he said.
The ruling has generated significant controversy.
The judges who dissented scathingly wrote: “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 dissent noted Lambert is not dead and can breath 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?”
The judges continued: “By no stretch of the imagination can Vincent Lambert be deemed to be in an ‘end-of-life’ situation. Regrettably, he will be in that situation soon, after feeding and hydration are withdrawn or withheld. Persons in an even worse plight than Vincent Lambert are not in an imminently terminal condition (provided there is no other concurrent pathology). Their nutrition – regardless of whether it is considered as treatment or as care – is serving a life-sustaining purpose. It therefore remains an ordinary means of sustaining life and should, in principle, be continued.”
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 possible 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.”
Several similar cases have developed since Terri’s death in which coma patients suddenly awakened, sometimes telling stories of having been able to hear people talking about them while in the coma.
WND reported on the case of Martin Pistorius, who in the 1980s fell into a coma. In a vegetative state for 12 years, he now talks, uses a computer and is mobile in a wheelchair. During those 12 years, he was aware of his surroundings and remembers conversations, including one time when his mother said, “I hope you die.”
A few years ago, a woman was in a short coma due to a medical condition, and her husband made the difficult decision after several days to halt her life support. She immediately became restless, woke up and said: “Get me out of here. … Take me to Ted’s and take me to the Melting Pot,” naming two Mexican restaurants.
ABC News reported several years ago when a college student horribly injured in a car pileup and in a coma was being reviewed as an organ donor after months of unconsciousness. Suddenly, one night, he wiggled his fingers, and soon he was moving around in a wheelchair and talking.
Then a new study from Northwestern confirmed that patients in comas “recovered consciousness significantly faster and had an improved recover” when they heard their family members telling familiar stories.
WND has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organizations – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous and possibly criminal aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WND’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including more than 150 original stories and columns.