Pro-life people across the world expressed outrage and sadness Thursday after learning of the death of Vincent Lambert, a man with disabilities who was starved to death in France.
Lambert, 42, died early Thursday morning after doctors at Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France, removed his food and water tubes. His parents and several siblings objected, but they exhausted all legal options to protect him.
Pope Francis, who publicly advocated on Lambert’s behalf, wrote a message on Twitter mourning his death.
“May God the Father welcome Vincent Lambert in His arms,” the pope wrote Thursday. “Let us not build a civilization that discards persons whose lives we no longer consider to be worthy of living: every life is valuable, always.”
CTV News reports the Pontifical Academy at the Vatican described Lambert’s death as a “failure of our humanity.” Church leaders in France pointed out that, though disabled, Lambert was “not at the end of his life.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah said Lambert “died as a martyr,” The Tablet reports.
“On this sad day, I pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Vincent Lambert, who died as a martyr, victim of the terrifying madness of the people of our time. I pray for his family and in particular for his parents so courageous, so dignified. Let us not be afraid. God is awake and watching,” he wrote on Twitter.
Archbishop Michael Aupetit of Paris encouraged priests to offer Mass for Lambert as he was dying, according to the report.
On Sunday, doctors removed the water and feeding tubes from the 42-year-old man after a lengthy court battle over his medical care, Agence France-Presse reports.
His parents and two of his siblings fought a long legal battle against Vincent’s wife, several other siblings and doctors who believe it was time for him to die. Vincent has been in the hospital since 2008, when he became quadriplegic and suffered severe brain damage from a vehicle accident.
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Doctors said Vincent, a former nurse, can breathe on his own, sleep, wake up and respond to external stimuli. Other reports indicate he sometimes smiled and cried.
Christophe Foltzenlogel, a legal expert with the European Center for Law and Justice, said Vincent was not dying and may have improved with specialized care.
Catholic Church leaders said Lambert’s right to life should have been respected.
“We received with grief the news of the death of Vincent Lambert,” said Alessandro Gisotti, director of the Holy See Press office, in a statement. “We pray that the Lord receive him into His house and express our closeness to his loved ones and all who, until the last moment, have committed themselves to assist him with love and dedication.”
“Let us remember and reaffirm what the Holy Father said, intervening on this painful event: God is the only master of life from the beginning to its natural end and it is our duty to guard it always and not to give in to the culture of waste,” Gisotti added.
Vincent’s parents asked to care for him in their home or allow him to be transferred to a facility that specializes in his specific needs. However, both were refused.
His father, Pierre Lambert, 90, said what was being done to his son was nothing less than “murder in disguise, it’s euthanasia.” He and his wife said they were resigned to their son’s death, having exhausted all legal options to protect him.
Vincent died at 8:25 a.m. Thursday (local time).
Lambert’s nephew Francois announced the news Thursday, telling reporters: “Now I hope he can rest in peace. Vincent was in a vegetative state, he wouldn’t want to live that way. In respect for him, it was not right to keep him alive in these conditions.”
He provided no evidence to support the claim.
“We were ready to let him go,” he added, saying he had been notified about his uncle’s death by the doctor treating him.
“It is not sad. It is rationality gaining the upper hand. This was a human being who was suffering and the various theatrical gestures did not mean much,” he said.
The case has drawn the attention of international human rights advocates. Many see similarities to the fight over the life of Terri Schiavo, an American woman who died by slowly being starved to death after her life support was removed based on her husband’s wishes. Schiavo’s family also lost a long legal battle to provide medical care to their daughter.