Italy moves towards legalisation of euthanasia


Southern Europe

Ewout Kieckens, RD

Demonstration in favour of euthanasia in Italy summer 2021. Photo AFP, Gabriel Bouys

Two recent cases in which patients received judicial approval for assisted suicide sharpened the Italian debate around euthanasia. Some form of assisted suicide regulated by law seems to become a possibility more and more.

In one of the cases, an Italian medical-ethical committee determined that a wholly paralysed male has the right to medically assisted suicide. The 43-year-old patient, a former truck driver from Pesaro, has been bedridden for ten years. He asked for assisted suicide and fulfils all the requirements for euthanasia.

His illness is irreversible, and he suffers unbearable pains. Suppose the man is indeed assisted by his suicide. In that case, he will be the first Italian that receives a legal assisted suicide, Associazione Luca Coscioni reported. Associazione Luca Coscioni is an organisation that supports the legalisation of assisted suicide.

First Italian with success in appeal

The truck driver is the first Italian that successfully appealed to the High Council (the highest court in the country) with help from the organisation. The council determined in 2019 that assisted suicide is allowed in specific and extreme circumstances. It also stated that the patient has to choose consciously for suicide and that a clear will of the person in question is required before assistance can be given. A physician has to provide the drugs that the patient needs to take.

The verdict violates the current jurisdiction. Euthanasia in Italy is forbidden by law. However, since January 2018, Italians can set up a will to determine whether they want to undergo passive euthanasia if they become mentally incapacitated. Two years after the law’s introduction, only 0.7 per cent of the population filled in the will.

Stop tube feeding

Also concerning this will, some elongation exists. A hospital in Feltre, close to Venice, prepares to stop tube feeding the 31-year-old Samantha D’Incà. A year ago, the woman broke her hip after a fall on her parents’ driveway. Due to a medical fault during surgery, her brain did not receive enough oxygen. As a result, she drifted off into a coma.

Since then, the woman has been fed by a tube, even though she can breathe herself. According to Italian law, despite the lack of a will, her parents want to stop the medical procedures. They reason that the vegetative state of their daughter is irreversible, newspaper Corriere del Veneto reports. The medical-ethical committee has approved in November. Earlier, the court had given consent as well. It is only a matter of time before the tube is removed.

Ivano Renosto, a member of the movement “With Christ for life”, does not understand it. Last Saturday, he held a manifesto in front of the hospital to convince physicians to keep D’Incà alive. “If the tube is removed, Samantha will die a terrible death, just like Terry Sciavo”, 63-year-old Renosto says. In the case of Sciavo, the tube was removed after a long judicial fight. “There are gaps in judicial legislation concerning death. As a result, judges base their verdict on individual cases. The country moves in the direction of introducing jurisdiction that regulates assisted suicide.”

Parliament will discuss

The Italian parliament will likely speak out about this issue. The verdict of the High Council would have to be incorporated into the current jurisdiction. Besides, a referendum will probably be held. The past summer, supporters of legalisation collected more than a million signatures. That is sufficient to call out a referendum.



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