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Europe's Top Court to Rule on Letting Frenchman Die

  • Lisa Bryant

A handout photo taken on Sept. 28, 2014 by the parents of Vincent Lambert (R) and released by their lawyer Jean Paillot shows Vincent Lambert, a quadriplegic man on artificial life support, with his sister Marie Lambert (L) at a hospital in Reims.

A handout photo taken on Sept. 28, 2014 by the parents of Vincent Lambert (R) and released by their lawyer Jean Paillot shows Vincent Lambert, a quadriplegic man on artificial life support, with his sister Marie Lambert (L) at a hospital in Reims.

Europe's top rights courts has begun hearing arguments about whether a French man should be taken off life support in a case that has divided France - and exposes the wider debate across Europe over legalizing euthanasia.

The case before the European Court of Human Rights concerns 38-year-old Vincent Lambert. A 2008 road accident has left him a quadriplegic and in a vegetative state. His case has divided his family, and the French nation. Lambert's parents want him to remain on life support.

Terminally ill - human rights

The parent's lawyer Jean Paillot told French radio as long as Lambert is not actually sick, there is no reason to end his life.

But Lambert's wife, Rachel, told the radio she is fighting to take him off life support.

Regardless of the court's judgement there will be mourning, she said. But she says she has lost him since his accident, more than six years ago.

Assisted suicide debate

The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium have legalized euthanasia, and assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland. But the debate is still hot elsewhere in Europe.

French President Francois Hollande has promised legislation to allow doctors to keep terminally ill patients sedated until they die. France's National Assembly is to debate the issue later this month.

The president of the French Association for the right to Die in Dignity, Jean-Luc Romero, is pushing for euthanasia and assisted suicide to be legalized in France.

Romero says leftist politicians, including Hollande, have previously spoken in favor of legalizing euthanasia, now they must respect their pledges. He says European politicians may be divided over the matter, but polls show that most Europeans largely support euthanasia.

The European rights court is expected to take several weeks to rule on the Lambert's case.

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