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Italy’s top court opens the door to legalizing assisted suicide



John Burger - published on 09/29/19

Judges say law should allow procedure for those with "severe physical and psychological suffering."

Italy’s Constitutional Court has opened a door to assisted suicide in that nation.

The court on Wednesday said that anyone who “facilitates the suicidal intention … of a patient kept alive by life-support treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology” should not be punished.

Assisted suicide should be allowed, the top court ruled, if a patient has an irreversible condition which causes him or her severe physical and psychological suffering.

The court ruled in response to requests from a Milan court to clarify the law in relation to possible charges against Marco Cappato, a right-to-die activist who brought a 40-year-old man to a Swiss assisted-dying clinic in 2017. The man, a well-known DJ named Fabiano Antoniani, had been severely injured in a 2014 traffic accident.

Cappato, who was facing up to 12 years in prison for “instigating or assisting suicide,” now is likely to be acquitted.

“As of today, all of us in Italy are freer,” Cappato said after Wednesday’s decision.

Valeria Imbrogno, Antoniani’s former girlfriend, said the top court’s ruling meant that the DJ’s suffering had not been in vain.

“Fabo’s body had become a cage and he lived in that prison for two years and nine months, Imbrogno said. “If a person in these conditions dreams of dying at home, I find it profoundly unfair that someone else should say no.”

The Italian Bishops’ Conference, however, lamented that the judgment violated the sanctity of life.

“I don’t understand how you can talk of freedom,” said Bishop Stefano Russo, secretary general of the bishops’ conference. “This is creating the preconditions for a culture of death.”

Just last Friday, Pope Francis told hundreds of health professionals at the Vatican to “reject the temptation” to use medicine to “satisfy a sick person’s possible wish to die.”

“Medicine, by definition, is a service to human life,” he said, before quoting his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II: “Every doctor is asked to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.”

Parliament is now expected to debate the matter, the Guardian reported.

The head of the Catholic Doctors Association (AMCI), Filippo Boscia, announced the “conscientious objection” of its members and slammed “a slide towards euthanasia and a violation of our professional code,” the Guardian added.

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