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Holy See

Protect Life of Vincent Lambert: Vatican Says ‘Continued Assistance’ Is ‘Inescapable Duty,’ Doing Otherwise Is ‘Grave Violation’ of Human Dignity

This strong message came today, May 21, from the Vatican in a joint declaration of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and the Pontifical Academy for Life on the case of Mr. Vincent Lambert, someone severely disabled in France where there is ethical debate about whether he should be allowed to die as a result of lack of food and water.

Reiterating that withdrawing nutrition and hydration would constitute a grave violation of human dignity, the Vatican noted that while “the “vegetative state” is certainly a burdensome pathological state,” it “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, they explained, constitute a form of essential care, “always proportionate to life support.” To nourish a sick person, they continued, “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.”

Abandonment, Pitiless Judgment

“The suspension of such care represents, rather,” they decried, “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,” they underscored, “is an inescapable duty.”

They expressed their hope “that solutions may be found as soon as possible to protect Mr. Lambert’s life,” and concluded expressing the prayer of the Holy Father and all the Church.

Yesterday, May 20, Pope Francis tweeted: “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.”

***

Joint Declaration of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and the Pontifical Academy for Life on the case of Mr. Vincent Lambert: In full agreement with the affirmations of the Archbishop of Reims, H.E. Msgr. Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, and the auxiliary bishop, H.E. Msgr. 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.

[Vatican-provided statement]
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