Italy decriminalizes assisted suicide, PM questions whether a ‘right to die’ is a human right

By Laura Nicole

Last week, Italy’s constitutional court ruled that euthanasia is not a crime if it is done for a chronic, non life-threatening condition or for “intolerable” pain, and that anyone who “facilitates the suicidal intention… of a patient kept alive by life-support treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology” would not be charged with a crime, according to the Telegraph. The Italian Parliament will likely debate the court’s decision soon.

The ruling came after the court was asked to consider the case of a Fabiano Antoniani, a 37-year-old DJ who suffered severe injuries after a car accident in 2014, leaving him blind and quadriplegic. Pro-euthanasia activist Marco Cappato took Antoniani to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland where the disabled man took his own life in 2017 at the age of 40.

For his role in the man’s death, Cappato turned himself in to gain attention for the issue, and was facing up to 12 years in prison before the high court’s ruling. Prior to the court’s ruling, euthanasia was illegal in Italy, although patients were allowed to refuse care for themselves. Cappato is now expected to be acquitted.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his reservations to the press shortly after the court’s ruling, saying that a right to die is not an actual human right. “It is right that there should be a sober, serious debate in Parliament,” he said according to La Repubblica.

“I don’t want to impose my personal opinion: as a jurist and a Catholic, while I have no doubt that there exists a right to life, the hinge of all human rights, I say that it is to be doubted that there is a right to die. There is a right of self-determination whereby I choose my medical care, but to be sent to death and ask the help of qualified persons, this is in doubt.”

The Prime Minister also said that doctors who do not wish to participate in assisted suicide be allowed to follow their consciences on the matter.

Cappato, however, hailed the court’s decision with a tweet, claiming the disabled in need of assistance “have the right to be helped” to their death via euthanasia. He added, “From today, we are all freer, even those who disagree.”

A UK-based organization has pointed out the Italian ruling is alarmingly broad; for example, if applied in the UK, the ruling would encompass over 11 million people. The Italian Bishops Conference blasted the ruling and said that it “creates the preconditions for a culture of death in which society loses the light of reason.”

The statement from the bishops echoed Pope Francis’ strong condemnation of assisted suicide a few weeks prior. “The practice of euthanasia, […] only apparently aims to encourage personal freedom,” said the Pontiff in a September 2nd audience, according to CNA [Catholic News Association]. “In reality, it is based on a utilitarian view of the person, who becomes useless or can be equated to a cost, if from the medical point of view, he has no hope of improvement or can no longer avoid pain. If one chooses death, the problems are solved in a sense; but how much bitterness behind this reasoning, and what rejection of hope involves the choice of giving up everything and breaking all ties!”

Filippo Boscia, head of the Catholic Doctors’ Association, called the move “a violation of our professional code” and called for conscientious objection to the matter, according to the Guardian.

Editor’s note. This appeared at LiveAction News and is reposted with permission.