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Italian lower house passes euthanasia bill for people with disabilities 

by | Mar 17, 2022

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A report from Euronews says that Italy’s lower house recently approved a bill that will legalize a form of euthanasia. “The new bill follows a ruling from Italy’s Constitutional Court in 2019, which said that certain forms of euthanasia should not be illegal,” according to Euronews. 

The Constitutional Court 

said that assisted suicide would be allowed for terminally ill patients who were suffering from “unbearable” physical or psychological pain and were being kept alive by machines.

The bill, introduced last week,

would make assisted suicide legal for patients who suffer from an irreversible illness with an “unfortunate prognosis” that causes absolutely intolerable and psychological suffering”

They must also have undergone a palliative treatment process and be maintained alive only with medical treatments.

The law will only allow these patients to end their life with medication under the approved assistance of medical personnel. They must also be of legal age, show capacity of understanding and be adequately informed.

There is not a lot of information about the bill, but it seems to be worded in a manner that on the surface would be or limited circumstances. I am concerned, however, about the use of the terms irreversible illness, unfortunate prognosis and psychological suffering because these terms cannot be adequately defined.

When the Italian Constitutional Court opened the door to assisted suicide in September 2019, I was also concerned with the language of that decision. An article in The Guardian reported that the court appeared to limit the extent of the decision to people being kept alive on life-support, but I thought that the decision was 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”. 

Since the article used the phrase “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable,” I recognize that the terminology cannot be defined and the decision could be interpreted to allow assisted suicide for a wider group of people.

Meanwhile, on February 16, Italy’s Constitutional Court rejected a referendum on euthanasia as reported by Euronews:

Italy’s Constitutional Court has rejected a petition to hold a referendum on euthanasia and legally-assisted suicide.

The court said a proposed vote on the matter would not sufficiently protect “weak and vulnerable” people and would therefore violate the constitution.

A petition for a referendum on the right to die had collected more than 750,000 signatures last August, well above the threshold required to trigger a vote.

Sadly, in November 2021, an ethics committee in the central Italian region of Marche approved the first assisted suicide death, a man with quadriplegia known as Mario, based on the 2019 court decision.

EPC is also concerned that the Italian assisted suicide court decisions are about people with disabilities. The 2019 court decision discriminated against people with disabilities and the current bill will permit doctors to abandon people with disabilities to death.

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

Categories: Euthanasia