Doctors in France have unexpectedly decided to keep a paralysed patient on life support after reportedly hearing of a plan to kidnap him.
Vincent Lambert, 39, has been in a vegetative state since a motorcycle accident seven years ago.
His family has been split over whether he should be kept alive.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in June that his treatment should stop. Doctors were expected to decide on when that should happen.
But the team in charge of his care, at the university hospital in Rheims, told Mr Lambert’s parents that the case should be handed to public prosecutor and the patient placed under protection.
Mr Lambert’s father, Pierre, told French media that the hospital had spoken of a project to abduct him.
But when the family asked for more information, doctors “did not want to talk about it further”.
In a statement, the hospital said the conditions of “calmness and security” necessary to make a decision were not in place, neither on the part of Mr Lambert nor his medical team.
The patient’s nephew Francois Lambert told AFP news agency that his uncle needed “protection” and someone to “represent him legally”.
The case has pitted Mr Lambert’s wife Rachel and six of his siblings – who insist the 38-year-old former psychiatric nurse would never have wanted to be kept alive artificially – against his devoutly Catholic parents.
His mother Viviane told reporters she was “relieved” by the hospital’s decision to keep him on life support.
But Rachel Lambert, who was in tears after the announcement, said she was “shocked” and that she had been hoping that “Vincent could finally be respected”.
She directed criticism at dozens of campaigners who have turned out in support of Mr Lambert’s parents.
“These are pressure groups who are terrorising the hospital,” she said.
Euthanasia is illegal in France, although doctors can withdraw care under a 2005 passive euthanasia law.
Mr Lambert’s case was taken to the ECHR last year after France’s highest court ruled in favour of ending his life support.
He has been kept alive with the use of intravenous food and water at a hospital in Reims after a motorcycle accident left him severely injured.
Shortly after the hospital’s announcement on Thursday, French Health Minister Marisol Touraine expressed her full support for Mr Lambert’s medical team.
She stressed that doctors had not decided to refer the case to the authorities because they refused to stop the treatment, but because of security concerns.