Italian Court opens a wide door to assisted suicide

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Italy’s constitutional court opened the door to assisted suicide in its decision in the case concerning Fabiano Antoniani, known as DJ Fabo.

Antoniani incurred a spinal cord injury in June 2014, in a serious car accident. His injuries caused him to be blind and live as person with a tetraplegic condition.

In February 2017, Marco Cappato, a member of Italy’s Radical party, drove Antoniani to Switzerland where he died by assisted suicide.

The extent of the court decision is not clear. According to the Guardian, the court decided 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 under certain conditions, the top court ruled.

This statement appears to limit the extent of the decision to people being kept alive on life-support. However the news account suggests that the decision is much wider. The Guardian article stated:

The court said that a patient’s condition must be “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable [emphasis added].

Following approval of the decision by a local ethical committee, public health authorities should verify all conditions are met.

By the court using the language “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable,” it actually opens assisted suicide to a much wider group of people.

The statement is completely subjective, and similar to the Canadian Carter court decision. This statement is hard to define and nearly impossible to regulate.

Based on Antoniani’s injuries and the language of the court decision, clearly the Italian court opened the door to assisted suicide based on killing people with disabilities.

I fear that the language of the decision will lead to wide open assisted suicide, unless the government tightly defines the terms and Italian doctors refuse to kill their patients.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposed with permission.