The ECLJ Intervenes in the Vincent Lambert Case at the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

CRPD/Lambert: The ECLJ Intervenes

By ECLJ1602111600000

On October 6, 2020, the ECLJ submitted its written observations to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding Communication No. 59/2019 presented on behalf of Mr. Vincent Lambert.

One year after Vincent Lambert’s death through deprivation of enteral nutrition and hydration, the ECLJ demonstrates to the Committee that the French law (Leonetti and Claeys-Leonetti laws) and French medical practices have opened the door to the euthanasia of persons with severe disabilities.

As a preliminary matter, the ECLJ presents arguments in support of the admissibility of the Lambert communication. The ECLJ goes on to observe that the Committee should find that France is breaching its international obligations and is violating the Convention because it failed to comply with the provisional measures prescribed by the Committee.

On the merits, the ECLJ presents to the Committee an analysis of the implementation of French law relating to ceasing medical treatment on the basis of the case of Mr. Vincent Lambert as well as other similar cases that have since been ruled on. It appears that this law, as currently applied, allows for the intentional termination of the lives of persons solely on the basis of their disability, in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Indeed, Article 25(f) requests States to:

Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability”.

As recently recalled by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in her report on “Lives not worth living” (A/HRC/43/41, 17 December 2019):

 “The reference to food and fluids refers directly to the medical practice of withdrawal of basic life-sustaining care to persons with severe impairments.”

This case is of significant importance because it is both French law and French practices that will be judged. It is the first case to bring the issue of withdrawal of food and hydration before the Committee. During the drafting of the Convention, several countries, including Austria, the Holy See, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States[1] had stressed “the need to prevent euthanasia of persons with disabilities”[2].

The Committee will take its decision in the coming months.

Read the complete Observations of the ECLJ (in French only).

On October 3, 2020, we had a recap on the procedures with Maître Jérôme Triomphe on RCF:

[1] Daily summary of discussion at the sixth session, 12 August 2005: https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/ahc6sum12aug.htm

[2] Daily summary of discussion at the seventh session, 24 January 2006 (Qatar): https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/ahc7sum24jan.htm

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