Source: Vatican Media, ICN
A joint declaration, signed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has called for continued care to support the life of Frenchman Vincent Lambert.
The 42 year-old nurse has been in hospital in Rheims since 2008 following a motorcycle accident. He is quadriplegic and has suffered severe brain damage, but he continues to breathe without a respirator.
While some doctors describe him as being "minimally consciousness", others claim he is in a "chronically vegetative" state. His wife and some siblings says they want his care to be withdrawn, but his parents and other relatives are appealing for him to be kept alive.
Doctors decided earlier this month to start withdrawing care for Mr Lambert. On Monday they stopped feeding food and water through a gastric tube and began administering sedatives. Twelve hours later, the Paris Appeal Court ruled that doctors must respect a 3rd May request made by the UN Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the French government that it prevents the 'euthanasia' of Mt Lambert while the case is examined.
Euthanasia is illegal in France but in 2016 a law was introduced giving terminally ill patients the right to be put into continuous deep sedation (CDS) until death.
This is the full text of the Vatican declaration:
In full agreement with the affirmations of the Archbishop of Reims, HE Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, and the auxiliary bishop, HE Mgr Bruno Feillet, in relation to the sad case of Mr Vincent Lambert, we wish to reiterate the grave violation of the dignity of the person that the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration would constitute. Indeed, the "vegetative state" is certainly a burdensome pathological state, which however does not in any way compromise the dignity of those people who find themselves in this condition, nor does it compromise their fundamental rights to life and to care, understood as the continuity of basic human assistance.
Nutrition and hydration constitute a form of essential care, always proportionate to life support: to nourish a sick person never constitutes a form of unreasonable therapeutic obstinacy, as long as the person is able to receive nutrition and hydration, provided this does not cause intolerable suffering or prove damaging to the patient.
The suspension of such care represents, rather, a form of abandonment of the patient, based on a pitiless judgment of the quality of life, expression of a throwaway culture that selects the most fragile and helpless people, without recognizing their uniqueness and immense value. The continuity of assistance is an inescapable duty.
We therefore hope that solutions may be found as soon as possible to protect Mr Lambert's life. To this end, we assure the prayer of the Holy Father and all the Church.
Also on Monday, Pope Francis reaffirmed the position of the Church by publishing a tweet on his @Pontifex account. The text reads as follows:
"We pray for those who live with severe illness. Let us always safeguard life, God's gift, from its beginning until its natural end. Let us not give in to a throwaway culture".
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