Italian Senate must defeat Assisted Death bill. 

By Jacop Coghe

Editor’s note. Jacopo Goghe is a leader of the Italian group Pro-Vita. Reposted at Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

In Italy, euthanasia is a hotly debated topic, and in the last few days the issue has been revamped at legislative and parliamentary level. In the Chamber of Deputies, the Consolidated Act on “Provisions on medically assisted voluntary death” has passed. This legislation provides precisely for the right of a physician to prescribe lethal drugs for “medically assisted death” which is defined by Article 2 as:        

death caused by an autonomous act by which, as a result of the procedure governed by the rules of this law, your life is ended in a deliberate, dignified and conscious way, with the support and supervision of the National Health Service.

This bill, from the very beginning was opposed by pro-vita because it legalizes killing by euthanasia which is contrary to any form of protection of the most sacred and inviolable good, that being life.

In particular, there are several critical aspects of this text, especially after its approval in the House, which has been revealed only after the vote on the amendments that partially weakened the criteria, such as the amendment that requires a single certification to be eligible for euthanasia and no longer a double medical certification (general practitioner and specialist). 

Moreover, according to this legislative proposal, there should be no reference to the family and social condition of the person seeking assisted suicide, though these are fundamental elements in everyone’s life, especially for a person who is sick and possibly terminal.

One of the major critical points is in the preamble of the Consolidated Act, namely the Italian Constitutional Court’s judgment no. 242 of 2019, which was the ruling on the so-called “DJ Fabo-Cappato case.” The Court urged Italian politics to legislate on the issue. The lawmakers, however, are not legally bound to pass certain regulations. Consequently, the political “race” to legalize assisted suicide at any cost is unjustified, not to say absurd.

The Consolidated Text, which in a few months will reach and be debated by the Senate for the second and final vote, provides another critical “detail” –the definition of irreversible clinical condition. This wording actually serves to extend the right to assisted suicide to an extremely large number of people. The wording of the legislation approves assisted suicide for “irreversible” clinical conditions and many genetic diseases, which make a full return to “normality” impossible, but are a long way from death or dying.

Another legal critical element consists in the lack of room for conscientious objection for physicians who are asked to provide assistance in dying. At first the objection was totally missing from the Consolidated Act, while now it is included, but public health facilities are still required to guarantee the ongoing presence of non-objecting physicians.

On the medical side, there are also broad ethical issues. The legalization of assisted death infringes a millennial moral principle of civilization and medical ethics: “do not kill the innocent” or “do no harm.” Moreover, giving doctors the right to prescribe lethal drugs to the sick who question the “good of life” means asserting that their lives are worth “less” than those who are healthy.

In particular, in Italy and especially with this bill, palliative care is not given enough emphasis and is therefore neither guaranteed, supported nor even encouraged. This results in the violation of the principle of – caring for the sick. 

Consequently, as long as all patients do not have effective access to palliative care, there is yet another reason for assisted suicide not to be legalized.