Italy moves towards ban on euthanasia

Italy’s lower house has passed a controversial end-of-life bill which makes it illegal to withdraw hydration and nutrition from comatose patients in most cases. This has been a hotly debated point ever since the death of a 38-year-old woman, Eluana Englaro, who had been in an irreversible coma for 17 years. Her father, Beppino, successfully fought in the courts to withdraw her food and water and in 2009 she died.

The Advance Directives Bill bans euthanasia and assisted suicide and specifies that patients should not be denied food and hydration. Treatment can only be stopped if hydration and nutrition are no longer effective "in giving the patient the nutritional factors necessary for physiological functions of the body".

The legislation “recognizes and protects human life as inviolable” and guarantees the right to life “in the terminal phase of life and in the event that the person is no longer capable of understanding and volition until his death is confirmed.” Doctor will also be obliged to inform patients that euthanasia is not an option.

The bill was passed on a secret ballot with 278 yes votes, 205 no votes and 7 abstentions. Democratic Party Senator Ignazio Marino, a transplant surgeon, denounced the bill as “barbaric and unacceptable” and vowed to campaign for a referendum on the issue.  ~ La Stampa, July 13

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