EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (GC), CASE OF LAMBERT AND OTHERS V. FRANCE, JUDGMENT OF 5 JUNE 2015, APPLICATION NO. 46043/14

Julia Kapelańska-Pręgowska

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/CLR.2016.005

Abstract


This case commentary provides an analysis of the judgment of 5 June 2015 in Lambert and others v. France, handed down by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The case at issue concerned the discontinuation of treatment (artificial nutrition and hydration) of a patient who was unconscious and not able to express his wishes. It can undoubtedly be classified as one of the “hard cases” decided by the ECtHR, as it touches upon end-of-life dilemmas and the scope of patient’s autonomy. Legal regulation of these issues proves to be very difficult because it needs to avoid vagueness and has to balance conflicting interests and rights.
This comment proceeds as follows. Part I offers introductory remarks and explains the fundamental nature of the underlying dilemmas. Part II describes the basic facts of the case, followed by part III which describes the scope of the claim. Part IV discusses admissibility questions – that is – of locus standi and jurisdiction ratione personae. The next part provides some insight into the French legislation concerning the rights of patients in end-of-life situations (Loi Leonetti). Part VI discusses major questions that have been raised in the judgment. The final part offers some conclusions and points for further discussion.

Keywords


persistent/obstinate therapy; medical futility; incompetent patients; informed consent; advanced directives; patient’s autonomy; right to life; State’s positive obligations

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