REIMS, France — Doctors given a green light by a European court to end the life support for a comatose French man on Thursday sought help from prosecutors amid an escalating conflict between the man's family members.
Vincent Lambert was left comatose in a 2008 car accident. His wife wants doctors to stop care but his parents disagree and the dispute has riveted France and divided citizens.
The family members had met with the medical team at a Reims hospital expecting to learn whether life support would be ended. Instead, the team said the case will now be referred to the prosecutor's office to designate a legal representative to protect Lambert.
The case has already gone through French courts and in June Europe's human rights court ruled that doctors could stop treatment.
Some of the relatives suggested threats were behind the doctors' decision Thursday.
"I am profoundly sad and shocked that some people are putting pressure on the hospital, a place that should be intimate," Lambert's wife Rachel told the press, bursting into tears.
Francois Lambert, the nephew of Vincent who is also opposed to continued care, said after the meeting that "the intimidation is working. The threats are working."
Lambert's parents said they were relieved by the decision.
Euthanasia — which involves an act to kill the patient — is not legal in France. But end-of-life legislation allows doctors to stop treatments in certain cases, following a complex process that includes consultation with family members.
The Lambert case had echoes of the legal fight over Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped, and she entered what doctors refer to as a "persistent vegetative state," or prolonged coma. She died in 2005 after her husband won a protracted court case with Schiavo's parents to have her feeding tube removed.