REIMS, France - A French court on Friday upheld a hospital's decision to keep a brain-damaged man alive in a case that has divided his family.

The judges said that Vincent Lambert's doctors were within their rights, based on their "professional and moral independence," to suspend an earlier court decision that would have seen them cut the intravenous food and water keeping the 38-year-old alive.

The decision by the court in Chalons-en-Champagne, in northern France, is the latest twist in a protracted legal battle that has pitted the family members of Lambert, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since a 2008 road accident, against each other.

On one side is Lambert's wife Rachel, his nephew Francois, and six of his siblings - who insist the former psychiatric nurse would never have wanted to be kept alive artificially.

On the other stand his devout Catholic parents who insist on keeping Lambert alive.

The European Court of Human Rights had in June backed the earlier decision of a French court to allow Lambert to be taken off life support.

But his parents and two siblings appealed to the Strasbourg-based court in a desperate bid to stop doctors from withdrawing intravenous feeding after exhausting their legal options in France.

The European court agreed that a French court decision, which said Lambert should be allowed to die, did not violate European rights laws.