Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Basic care

Life | French appeals court rules doctors cannot deprive Vincent Lambert of food and fluid
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 5/28/19, 04:37 pm

In a last-minute intervention, a French appeals court ruled that 42-year old Vincent Lambert’s doctors must resume giving him food and water, to the dismay of Lambert’s wife but to the relief of his devout Catholic parents and pro-life advocates.

In 2008, Lambert, a French psychiatric nurse, was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him mentally impaired and unable to move or eat. He has received his food and fluids by feeding tube at Reims University Hospital. His wife, Rachel, applied in 2015 to have his feeding tube removed, saying she wants to see him die and be a “free man.”

Euthanasia is illegal in France, but the law allows “passive euthanasia,” or removing the supply of food and fluids from the terminally ill or injured. But Lambert isn’t dying, and the act would constitute euthanasia, according to pro-life advocates, a group of French doctors, and the legal group representing Lambert’s parents.

“To withhold these basic necessities of life from Victor Lambert would be nothing less than euthanizing him, which masquerades under the guise of so-called ‘mercy killing,’” Deborah Piroch, a spokeswoman for Human Life International, told me. “These are not considered ‘extraordinary means’ of survival by the Catholic Church—even a baby is given food and water. Would one kill the baby because he cannot eat or drink without aid? Of course not.”

On Monday, Lambert’s doctor, Vincent Sanchez, sedated Lambert and removed his feeding tube after the European court of Human Rights refused to take the case. The court had previously ruled in 2015 that the feeding tube could be removed. But hours after Sanchez stopped providing food and fluids, the French Court of Appeal gave a surprise ruling to restore the feeding tube.

Lambert’s lawyer, Jean Paillot from the European Center for Law and Justice, called the ruling an “extraordinary victory.” The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said it was a victory for “disabled persons, life, and international law.”

The French Society for Palliative Care said removing his feeding tube would be justified, since it simply stopped “a situation of artificial prolongation of life, as a result of medical action.”

But Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told me that administering food and water—even through a feeding tube—is basic care rather than medical intervention. Only in recent years, he said, has the medical establishment redefined food and water as medical treatment.

Allowing people to die by dehydration, he said, “goes on every single day, everywhere, all the time,” adding, “In the case of Vincent Lambert, his mother is fighting against it. He would have been dead a long time ago if his parents weren’t fighting against it.”

Many have likened Lambert’s case to that of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who died on March 31, 2005. Her husband won a lengthy court battle to have doctors remove her feeding tube, and Schiavo died 13 days later. Her lawyer told WORLD founder Joel Belz that before she died, Schiavo could laugh, cry, and she even “fussed” at nursing staff. Similarly, the ACLJ wrote that Lambert can turn his head to look at family members, swallow, and breathe on his own.

Schadenberg said that after Schiavo’s death, food and water was redefined as medical treatment: “When that Terri Schiavo case went through and was completed, it created an idea that this was OK, we can do this. So long as we have consent, we can do this.”

Despite the ruling on Monday, the battle for Vincent Lambert’s life isn’t over. One ray of hope for pro-life advocates has been the work of the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The committee has repeatedly asked the French government to follow the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which France has ratified. The convention protects people like Lambert, whom the committee says is disabled, rather than in a vegetative state.

Whether the French government ultimately will comply with the convention and protect Lambert remains to be seen.

Schadenberg said that the precedent set by the case has broad ramifications: “This doesn’t affect just this man, as important as this man is as an individual. It affects all people with disabilities who require food and fluids delivered to them by tube. It affects all of them.”

Associated Press/Photos by Jim Salter Associated Press/Photos by Jim Salter Pro-life advocate Teresa Pettis (right) greets a passerby outside the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis earlier this month.

No more Planned Parenthood for Missourians?

The only abortion facility in Missouri may close by the end of the week if state officials decide to allow its license to expire, according to Planned Parenthood officials on Tuesday.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last week asked Planned Parenthood to address three issues with its operations in the state before it would renew the license, CBS News reported. The abortion facility agreed to respond to two of the three concerns—naming who at the facility provided state-mandated counseling and including an additional pelvic exam for women seeking an abortion—but the third proved more difficult. State health officials wanted to interview all seven abortionists affiliated with the facility about their “deficient practices,” but Planned Parenthood could only require the two on staff to cooperate. The other five, who are medical residents, declined to participate with the investigation.

If health officials revoke the license, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion facility since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which led to the legalization of abortion nationwide. Planned Parenthood is planning to sue to keep the facility open.

The possible closure of the Planned Parenthood facility represents Missouri’s second major pro-life move in the past week. Last Friday, Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill into law that protects unborn children from abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy. —Kyle Ziemnick

Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu (file) Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu (file) Sandra Merritt (left) and David Daleiden outside of a courtroom in San Francisco in February

Across the nation

Mississippi: A federal judge blocked a heartbeat law in Mississippi on Friday. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who halted the law, is the same judge who last year overturned the Mississippi law protecting the unborn from abortion after 15 weeks gestation.

California: Sandra Merritt, an undercover pro-life activist and a colleague of David Daleiden with The Center for Medical Progress, asked courts last week to skip the trial over a suit Planned Parenthood filed against her and issue a summary judgment. Her attorneys argue that Planned Parenthood has no standing to bring its 15-count civil suit that seeks $16 million in damages. “This case should be dismissed,” said Matt Staver, attorney and founder of Liberty Counsel, which is defending Merritt.

Louisiana: The state Senate moved on May 21 to have voters decide whether they want a constitutional amendment saying the state does not guarantee a right to abortion or pay for abortion with taxpayer dollars.

Colorado: Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office issued a press release last week telling Colorado Department of State employees not to travel to Alabama, a boycott against the state for passing a law protecting the unborn. The Democrat apparently had two Planned Parenthood executives help her draft the letter to make it “more digestible for the mainstream/media.” —S.G.

iStock/pressureUA iStock/pressureUA


Internet giant Google announced that, starting in June, it will screen ads that mention abortion. Advertisers that use the word will have to be certified with Google as either abortion providers or pregnancy centers “that otherwise serve pregnant women but do not provide abortions.” Google will then tag on a “disclosure” to the ad that says either, “Provides abortions” or “Does not provide abortions.”

“The disclosures will show on all Search ad formats and help ensure that these ads transparently provide basic information users need to decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them,” Google wrote.

The new rule applies to entities based in the United States, the U.K., and Ireland. —S.G.

Some good news

Georgia residents Christian and Justin Moore received a happy surprise when they went to a local Home Depot for supplies to build a walker for their disabled 2-year-old son, Logan. The toddler has hypotonia, which affects his ability to walk. When the parents said they wanted PVC pipe for a do-it-yourself walker, two employees and a store manager told them they would find the parts and build it for them at the store. “They told us to go get ice cream and come back in an hour,” Christian said. The employees then presented the parents with a bright orange walker, complete with wheels and Logan’s name. —S.G.

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Samantha Gobba

Samantha is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • Katie
    Posted: Wed, 05/29/2019 02:39 pm

    Regarding Censorship: It sounds like Google's main objective is to increase their ability to target ads, but the internet is already enough of an echo chamber as it is.

    Regarding Some Good News: Love the story about the Home Depot employees building the walker! This is beautiful!

    Posted: Fri, 05/31/2019 05:58 pm

    There are lots of good people in Georgia. And apparently many work at Home Depot.