Vincent Lambert, a man who was left paralyzed from a car accident more than a decade ago, has died in France after his feeding tube was removed.
His death comes after a lengthy court battle and amid reinvigorated debate over the rights of families to determine the best course of medical care and the power of the state to end life in the Western European nation.
Multiple reports on Thursday noted that the 42-year-old died at Reims Hospital, east of Paris, where he had been receiving treatment. In 2008 Lambert was gravely injured in a crash and had been in a vegetative state that required intravenous feeding to keep him alive.
His case has left his family and the legal system bitterly split. President Emanuel Macron rejected calls for him to intervene and save his life, reports say.
Lambert's parents, who are devout Catholics, have been fighting for his life since 2013 and have maintained that he wanted to be placed in a facility for persons with disabilities. Other members of his family have taken the opposite view.
"We've been ready for years," a nephew of Lambert's who has become a spokesman for the side of the family — along with Lambert's wife — who believe Lambert should have been allowed to die sooner.
Pro-life advocates are decrying the power of the state at play here, arguing that the withdrawal of food and water from someone who was not going to die is an unethical practice.
“Vincent Lambert is only the latest on a long list of victims who were targeted for killing by governments and judges," said Tom Shakely, chief engagement officer of Americans United for Life in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Thursday.
"Vincent was not terminal, and was not dying — he was a disabled adult man who deserved the basic care that food and water represents. Vincent’s story didn’t become an ‘end of life’ story until his wife and the French government determined that he should be made to die.
He added: "There will be more ‘Vincents’ until we recognize that every person — abled or disabled, and at whatever point of the spectrum of human life — deserves equal protection under law.”
Lambert's ordeal has garnered international attention.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called on the French government to intervene and halt the move to withdraw Lambert's life support while they investigate his case further, the BBC reported in May. Yet the French Ministry of Health asserted that its agency is not governed by the U.N. entity.
Euthanasia is banned in France but doctors are permitted to place terminally ill patients into heavy sedation.
Although he was unaware of it, Lambert's plight was a central feature in the political debate in France over legislation on terminal patients that was ultimately finalized in 2016. The law allows doctors to cease life-sustaining treatments, including artificial hydration and nutrition, but not end the patient's life.