Thursday, July 11, 2019

We mourn the death of Vincent Lambert, while thankful that an agreement will protect the life of Hannah Cement.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Vincent Lambert with his mother.
We mourn the death of Vincent Lambert, a cognitively disabled man who died by dehydration after France's highest court ordered that he be denied food and fluid, that they defined as medical treatment.

Our online petition pleading that President Macron save his life received more than 139,000 signatures.

While the death of Vincent Lambert is a tragic case of disability discrimination, Hannah Cement, a woman in Ottawa, will live until her natural death.

In early May, 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities intervened in the Lambert case stating that causing Lambert's death by dehydration contravened his rights as a person with disabilities. 

Section 25f of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires nations to:
25(f) Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.
The decision of the highest court of appeal in France, to withhold food and fluid from Lambert, was a death sentence and a denial his human rights.

Lambert was a cognitively disabled man who was not otherwise dying or nearing death. To directly and intentionally cause his death by withholding fluids is euthanasia by dehydration. Lambert's fluids were withheld for the purpose of causing his death, rather than allowing a natural from his medical condition.

Today EPC was informed that Hugh Scher, the lawyer for the Cement family, achieved a negotiated agreement whereby Hannah will continue to be fed and hydrated and receive basic medical care until she dies a natural death.

Hannah Cement is a 62 year-old woman with Down Syndrome and dementia, who is a life-long member of an Orthodox Jewish family and community. The substitute decision makers for Hannah, her family, refused to consent to a course of treatment that constituted the withdrawal of all treatment and care, including food and fluids and providing only comfort care.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) was granted limited intervention standing, in the court, based on our concerns related to the definition of food and fluid as medical treatment.

In late March, 2019, the Consent and Capacity Board (medical decision making tribunal) made a terrible decision in the Cement case, essentially ordering the withdrawal of all medical treatment from Hannah. This would have led to Hannah dying a similar death as Vincent Lambert.

The family appealed the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, once again, sought intervention standing in the case.

The news that the doctor, the hospital and the Cement family reached an agreement to assure that Hannah will continue to receive basic medical care until she dies a natural death is an incredible victory.

While we mourn the death of Vincent Lambert, we are very thankful for the legal agreement to enable Hannah Cement to continue living until she dies a natural death.


mellie said...

Call it what it is: willful murder. I've said before and I'll say again: Hitler won that war, because his evil ideology lives on and has spread all over the entire world. Now we're all vulnerable. God help us.

Janice said...

Alex: would the form: 'Life-Protecting Power of Attorney for Personal Care' prevent any of this from happening? If you specify that you want food and hydration until a natural death, can the medical establishment still euthanize you? Also, what if you don't have anyone to represent you. Who do you get to present your end of life instructions?

Charlene said...

"I have been criticized by people who say that Vincent Lambert is better off dead. I believe that all human life deserves equality and respect, including Vincent Lambert and Hannah Cement." From Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Keep on working hard Alex and your team for the sanctity of all human life. This must have been a horrible death for Vincent and for his family to see it. Instead of just letting him die naturally. Interesting that Pro-life advocates often note that in many jurisdictions, starving and dehydrating a pet animal is a crime. What an upside down world.

Alex Schadenberg said...

The rules will differ based on the jurisdiction but in most jurisdictions when there are clear expressions of what a person believes then those beliefs are respected. The problem happens when someone appoints a person to be the power of attorney for personal care, or healthcare advocate, and you are now incompetent and the person you appointed does not share your values.

Janice said...

Thank you Alex for that answer. What do people who are single do and have no one (family or friend) to assign this task to? Do they leave it with a lawyer?

bvs said...

Hi Alex, where can i get ahold of a 'Life protecting power of attorney gor personal care'? Is it a document that can be gotten from your organisation?

Alex Schadenberg said...

Order the Life-Protecting Power of Attorney for Personal Care for $10 by contacting the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at or calling 1-877-439-3348.

Unknown said...

Not really true if food and water are considered medication

Janice said...

Thank you for this information Alex.
Most of the people at my Church are elderly, single women who haven't a clue about this consideration. I'll make sure they know of this form. (I actually had one of your forms but I gave it to someone else!)

Anonymous said...

Is this document able to hold up in the courts in the United States? Thank you. Please advise. California resident and concerned!

Alex Schadenberg said...

This document was not designed for California use, but the language in the document can be used by incorporating it into the legal form used in California. The important part of the Power of Attorney document is the language used in the conditions/restrictions.

mellie said...

Food and water are never considered medication; they are the ordinary means of sustaining life.

Anonymous said...

How can this be considered a victory when nutrition and hydration are considered basic care in British Columbia, it must also be true for Ontario. So, how did it ever get to the courts on Ontario, unless I am missing something.

Alex Schadenberg said...

I wish this were true Mellie. Food and water should never be considered medication, but in fact they are defined as medical treatment.

mellie said...

It IS objectively true, but the powers that be twist everything into their own anti-life ideas. God help us.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Anonymous. The case you are referring to decided that spoon feeding was basic care. That decision did not affect this case because Hannah Cement is fed by a tube. Nonetheless, tube feeding should never be considered medical treatment.