Vincent Humbert’s death: to legitimate euthanasia?

Publié le 6 Jan, 2008

On the occasion of the broadcasting of the telefilm, on 3rd December 2007 « Marie Humbert, l’amour d’une mère », the polemic renewed with the testimony of Hervé Messager, Vincent Humbert’s physiotherapist.


The physiotherapist’s testimony


Hervé Messager cured Vincent Humbert for two years in the heliotherapy centre in Berck-sur-Mer. He states that “from a real fact, we embroidered all which was painful, […] to give an ideology”. “The truth and the opinion were completely manipulated”, he underlines in a message send to all MPs and broadcasted on the website of the association SOS Fin de vie. “Why was Vincent killed? He had already a lot of thing to live […] He was joking, he was laughing. We lied about a lot of things to justify the final act. It was said he was blind: certainly, he had a bad sight, but he saw; it was said he suffered: He did not suffer.” Hervé Messager recognizes that Vincent passed through discouragement and fear phases but he was also happy.


Under influence?


Marie Humbert seems to have been influenced by militant associations for the ″right to die″. Vincent was not tetraplegic, as it was stated, but he suffered a double hemiplegia, which means that his cortex was affected and his mental faculties largely impaired. How then could he write a letter to President Jacques Chirac? “He did not use the French language with such subtlety. Behind what it was said about the undeniable truth of his state, I discovered sophisms which could not come from him, as the relation between the President’s right of pardon and the claim for a right to death.” It is also unlikely he could write the book we credit him, Hervé Messager specifies.


Physician or veterinary?


In her book “Pour tous les Vincent du monde” 1, Marie Humbert claims to insert euthanasia exception in criminal code. “As my son often told me when he implored me to access his demand, when a dog is dying, we bring it to the veterinary who takes care of putting an end to its ordeal.” the proposal of the law called “Vincent Humbert’s law” is inspired by Belgian legislation: “over there, people are not afraid anymore to die since this law was adopted as they are sure they will not suffer unnecessarily…”, Marie Humbert says. What about the confidence climate which must prevail between patient and health providers whose role is also to support them when they are discouraged?


Parallel with VPT


We find in Marie Humbert, or in those who write for her, the same arguments and errors than those invoked 35 years ago to claim the abortion legalisation, pretending that euthanasia is already in France a reality which it is urgent to frame: Marie Humbert affirms that “in the intensive care unit, half of patients die after decision of limitation or discontinuation of active care and we can estimate that a proportion of 10 to 20% of these medical decisions are injections with death purpose”. Over 180,000 ill patients who die every year in France in an intensive care unit, she insinuates that 9,000 to 18,000 patients would be victims of active euthanasia… Rather than to accept the underhand generalisation, she claims the law takes into account the extreme cases “where the duty of humanity would not be assimilated to a criminal act”.  We remember that before the national Assembly of 26th November 1974, Simone Veil exclaimed: “we cannot close the eyes about the 300,000 abortions which, each year, mutilate women of this country”. The INED (National institute for demographic studies) estimates reasonably this figure from 40 to 60,000…


1. Pour tous les Vincent du mondeUne histoire d’amour, Marie Humbert, Ed. Michel Lafont, Août 2007.


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