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Italy: Court rules euthanasia and assisted suicide is not always a crime

November 2019

Dr Gordon Macdonald
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Italy’s highest Court has handed down a ruling in favour of a right-to-die activist which says euthanasia and assisted suicide is not always a crime.

According to the judgment, those people who facilitate the suicidal intention of a patient kept alive by treatments and suffering from an ‘irreversible pathology’ should not be punished.

The Constitutional Court was considering the case of Marco Cappato, a right-to-die activist who was accused of assisting the suicide of Fabiano Antoniani, a 40-year-old tetraplegic in Switzerland.

However, the ruling has been widely criticised by politicians, doctors and the Catholic Church.

According to reports, Matteo Salvini, the former deputy prime minister and leader of the Northern League, said he would never agree to ‘suicide by law’, while Senator Simone Pillon, was quoted as saying, ‘Human life is sacred and inviolable’.

In a statement following the ruling, pro-life advocacy group Care Not Killing (CNK), expressed concern and disappointment at the court’s decision.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, chief executive of CNK, responded to media reports about the ruling, and said, ‘This is deeply concerning and disappointing news.

‘This Court has, at a stroke of the pen legalised both assisted suicide and euthanasia, against the will and strong opposition of many in Italy.

‘Alarmingly, this ruling seems to allow for those with chronic, non-life threatening conditions, which in the UK would apply to around 11 million people’.

Dr Macdonald highlighted that the current law exists to protect the terminally ill, disabled people and the vulnerable from feeling pressure, real or perceived from ending their lives.

He continued, ‘In the US states of Oregon and Washington, which have an assisted suicide system, a clear majority of those ending their lives cite the fear of being a burden on their families or carers as a reason for their decision’.

The UK government has repeatedly rejected attempts to introduce assisted suicide and euthanasia, more than 10 times since 2003, out of concern for public safety.

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