Pourquoi l’affaire Lambert n’en finit pas

Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez


The Lambert case is a particularly dramatic end-of-life case that has fueled numerous judicial decisions since 2010, including the French Supreme administrative court and the European Court of Human Rights. The contentious point lies in the application of the 2005 law on patients’ rights at the end of life (loi Leonetti) – a law that foresees the possibility for a group of physicians to take the decision to withdraw treatment that merely artificially prolongs a patient’s life when he/she has become incapable of expressing his/her consent. While much of the public debate over the case has focused on the issue of the specificity of artificial nutrition and hydration, or on the moral admissibility of such end of life decisions, this paper argues that the flaw is mainly procedural: by envisaging a solely medical decision (i.e. one that does not include the patient’s will, directly or indirectly), the 2005 law creates a procedure whose legitimacy is weak at best -and thus unlikely to appear acceptable in a situation like Lambert’s, where there is strong family division over the issue.


Unconscious patient; End of life decision; Collegial procedure; Leonetti law; France

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15168/2284-4503-105


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ISSN 2284-4503

Editor University of Trento

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