Withdrawing Life Support Under the European Convention and the ICCPR: The Right to Life at the End of Life after Lambert v. France

Author:Rebecca Arbelino
Position:Pace University School of Law
Pages:239-281
SUMMARY

Despite the general controversy surrounding the withdrawal of life support, there has been little discussion of whether the withdrawal of life support is compatible with international human rights law. In the case of Lambert and Others v. France, the European Court of Human Rights became the first international tribunal to substantively address the compatibility of the withdrawal of life support... (see full summary)

 
FREE EXCERPT
e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
http://www.ijil.org
© 2014 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
Many thanks to Professor omas McDonnell for his invaluable guidance and com-
ments and for his contagious enthusiasm for international law, without which this work
would not have been possible.
withdrawing lifE support undEr
thE EuropEan ConvEntion and thE
iCCpr
thE right to lifE at thE End of lifE aftEr Lambert v.
France
Rebecca Arbolino
Pace University School of Law
E-mail: rarbolino@law.pace.edu
Despite the general controversy surrounding the withdrawal of life support,
there has been little discussion of whether the withdrawal of life support is com-
patible with international human rights law. In the case of Lambert and Others
v. France, the European Court of Human Rights became the rst international
tribunal to substantively address the compatibility of the withdrawal of life sup-
port with the right to life under international law. According to the Lambert
decision, the withdrawal of life support does not violate the right to life under
Article 2 of the European Convention. Meanwhile, the question of whether the
withdrawal of life support is compatible with the right to life under Article 6 of
the ICCPR has no such denitive resolution. Independent analysis of materials
relevant to the ICCPR, however, indicates that the withdrawal of life support
does not violate the right to life under Article 6. is paper examines the Lam-
bert decision, claries the legal status of the withdrawal of life support under the
ICCPR, and seeks to open a scholarly dialogue about the compatibility of the
withdrawal of life support with international human rights law.
Keywords: e Right to Life, Euthanasia, Human Rights, Bioethics, Law and Ethics,
Comparative Law.
III Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 239-81 (April 2016)
240
Arbolino
I. INTRODUCTION
e legal status of the withdrawal of life support is disputed and con-
troversial, from both domestic and international perspectives.1 Despite
the controversy, there has been little, if any, explicit discussion about
the permissibility of the withdrawal of life support under international
human rights law. In the Case of Lambert and Others v. France,2 the Eu-
ropean Court of Human Rights became the rst supranational tribunal
to substantively address the withdrawal of life support. e Lambert
Court, pursuant to the scope of its authority, evaluated the withdrawal
of life support under the right to life from Article 2 of the Europe-
an Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms (hereinaer “European Convention”). e court ultimately
determined that the withdrawal of life support, given certain condi-
tions, is consistent with the right to life from Article 2.3
Other international agreements also codify the right to life. Among
those agreements is the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (hereinaer “ICCPR”), which is arguably the most signicant
and inuential human rights treaty.4 Article 6 of the ICCPR codies the
right to life with language similar to that from Article 2 of the European
Convention.5 In recent years, there has been some discussion about the
withdrawal of life support under Article 6 of the ICCPR. is minimal
discussion, however, is hardly determinative: the available, explicitly
relevant materials are so law in the form of non-binding statements
1. See, e.g., Lindy Willmott et al., Withholding and Withdrawal of “Futile” Life-Sus-
taining Treatment: Unilateral Medical Decision-Making, 20 J. L.  M. 907,
907, 923 (2013).
2. Case of Lambert and Others v. France, App. no. 46043/14, Eur. Ct. H.R. (June
5, 2015), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-155352.
3. Id. para. 160.
4. See, e.g., Aldo S. Zilli, Approaching the Extraterritoriality Debate: e Human
Rights Committee, the U.S. and the ICCPR, 9 S C J. I’ L. 399, 421
(2011).
5. European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamen-
tal Freedoms, art. 2, opened for signature Apr. 11, 1950, C.E.T.S. No. 005; In-
ternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 6, Dec. 16, 1966, 999
U.N.T.S. 171.
241
Withdrawing Life Support Under the European Convention and the ICCPR
Arbolino
by subsidiary bodies of the United Nations.6
is work examines the Lambert case both as the rst of its kind
and for its armation that the withdrawal of life support is permissible
under the European Convention. More importantly, this work claries
the thus far unsettled status of the withdrawal of life support under the
ICCPR. Further, through respective analyses of the Court’s reasoning
in Lambert and of international materials relevant to Article 6 of
the ICCPR, this paper seeks to provoke a scholarly dialogue about
the overlooked question of whether the withdrawal of life support is
compatible with international human rights law.
Part I will describe the factual and procedural circumstances
leading up to the judgment in Lambert. Part II will provide the Court’s
reasoning in Lambert concerning the withdrawal of life support under
Article 2 of the European Convention. Part III will apply the Court’s
reasoning and other international materials to the withdrawal of life
support and other medical, end-of-life issues under Article 6 of the
ICCPR. Finally, I will conclude that Lambert and other international
materials show that the withdrawal of life support is compatible with
the right to life under Article 6 of the ICCPR.
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL
ASPECTS OF LAMBERT
Since he was seriously injured from a car accident in 2008, Vincent
Lambert has been tetraplegic and in a vegetative state.7 Doctors admin-
ister nutrition and hydration to Lambert through a gastric tube.8 Lam-
bert can neither communicate nor sit upright.9 In early 2013, Lambert’s
doctor initiated a procedure authorized by the French Public Health
6. See infra notes 244-52, 281-311 and accompanying text.
7. Lambert, supra note 2, at 11. See also, Agence France-Presse, Court Upholds
Decision to Keep Brain-damaged Frenchman Alive, G P (Oct. 9, 2015,
8:08 AM), http://www.globalpost.com/article/6665595/2015/10/09/court-up-
holds-decision-keep-brain-damaged-frenchman-alive (reporting that, aer
new medical decisions and proceedings, Lambert is still alive).
8. Id. para. 12.
9. Id. para. 13.

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR TRIAL