25 Sep 2017

Death in Venice? Not if it's euthanasia

While Belgium is even discussing euthanasia for severely handicapped children, Italy is likely to remain, even on this, on the dark side of Europe.

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Death in Venice? Not if it's euthanasia - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

The Italian Parliament is discussing an end-of-life law that would ultimately give terminal patients the freedom to decide when and how to die. But the obstructionism of many Catholic parliamentarians is likely to make it a joke.

In Italy, a country entrenched with Catholic culture even though there are fewer and fewer practicing Catholics, the freedom and self-determination of individuals is not a leading value. Especially when it comes to issues related to one's body, from the beginning to the end of life -- sexuality, conception, abortion, artificial fertilization, assisted suicide, euthanasia -- the pressure of Catholic culture defining life as a "gift of God" still runs deep.

In practice, this translates into continual obstacles to all attempts to make these sectors free from external interference and to give the last word to people directly involved in these matters.

The debate on end-of-life laws has been going on for several years, and there are several cases that have raised awareness of the need for a law that protects the right to decide when and how to die.

Most famous among these is Piergiorgio Welby, a man with muscular dystrophy who lost his battle for the right to die. He appealed to the President of the Italian Republic to receive euthanasia.

The second famous case is that of Eluana Englaro, a young woman who, after a serious accident, was in a coma for fifteen years. Her father led an exemplary civil battle for the right to have her feeding tube removed.

These two cases could have been avoided by the law discussed in parliament these days, a balanced law which, as Carlo Troilo explains, risks being obstructed by many parliamentarians. And so, while Belgium is even discussing euthanasia for severely handicapped children (a possibility that already existed in the Netherlands and which has nevertheless been used in very few cases), Italy is likely to remain, even on this, on the dark side of Europe.

Details from the story:

  • The Italian law proposal stipulates that: 
    • Early Treatment Provisions are binding on doctors;
    • Artificial feeding and hydration are no longer considered as "vital" but as "therapies", which can be renounced; 
    • Doctors may resort to continued deep sedation "in the presence of refractory health care treatments" in association with pain therapy and patient consent.
  • On Thursday, September 21, the Senate debate on the law, already approved by the House, began. The law, however, risks not being approved by the Senate because it is overwhelmed by three thousand amendments.
  • The Association Luca Coscioni, who fights for freedom of choice and choice at the end of life, has appealed to parliamentarians to prevent the law from being rejected.
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