* Court rules doctors can end medical support for Vincent
* Parents ask European court to issue ruling
* France mulling new legislation on euthanasia
By Chine Labbé and Brian Love
PARIS, June 24 France's top administrative court
ruled on Tuesday that doctors should be allowed to take a
tetraplegic man off life support after nearly six years in a
coma, siding with his wife in a case that has revived a debate
The Council of State ruled that doctors had the right to end
the medical support that has kept Vincent Lambert, brain-damaged
and in vegetative state, artificially alive since a motorbike
accident on the way to work plunged him into a coma in September
The verdict follows a heart-rending battle between Lambert's
wife Rachel, seeking to let the former psychiatric nurse die,
and his parents, who took legal action last year to halt plans
by his doctors to do that.
Apart from places such as Belgium, the Netherlands and
Switzerland, few countries in the world explicitly permit
euthanasia or assisted suicide - sometimes known as mercy
But France, where President Francois Hollande promised prior
to his 2012 election to introduce new right-to-die legislation,
has left grey areas regarding more passive forms of euthanasia
in a 2005 law on patient rights and care for the terminally ill.
The so-called Leonetti law does not legalise euthanasia but
also states, according to government information services, that
patient treatment should not involve "excessive obstination".
Lambert's parents, devoutly religious Catholics, said even
before the Council of State's Tuesday ruling that they had asked
the European Court of Human Rights to issue an emergency ruling
on the case should the French judges go against their will to
keep their son, now in his late 30s, as he is.
The international rights court, based in the eastern French
city of Strasbourg, said in a statement it would respond "as
soon as possible".
While Hollande has yet to deliver on his promise of
legislation by the end of the year on the rights of the
incurably ill, the legal battles over Lambert's fate and other
cases has thrust the euthanasia debate firmly back onto the
As many as 25,000 people die a year in France after removal
of medical support, according to Remi Keller, a member of the
Council of State.
In a separate case, a hospital doctor in southwest France is
on trial on charges that he used lethal injections to hasten the
deaths of seven old-aged people in 2010-2011. His lawyers say
they intend to turn that trial into a debate about the wider
issue of the boundaries of euthanasia.
(Writing by Brian Love; editing by Dominique Vidalon and John