'Right-to-Die' Patient Eluana Englaro Dies in Udine, Italy
Eluana Englaro has been in a vegetative state for 17 years, and her father recently secured the right to have her feeding tubes removed, effectively 'euthanizing' her.
Doctors had proven that the 37 year old comatose woman stood no chance of ever waking up and granted her the right to die. Englaro was transfered to a clinic in Udine, Italy on Thursday and her feeding was ceased on Friday.
An intense battle has been waged over the past few days as Italian prime minister Berlusconi, backed by the Vatican, appealed to President Napolitano for an emergency decree that would prevent the clinic from halding Englaro's sustenance. Napolitano rejected the decree on Friday, deeming it unconstitutional:
Mr Berlusconi launched the effort after President Napolitano refused to sign an emergency decree on the grounds of unconstitutionality, saying it clashed with November's supreme court ruling giving Ms Englaro's father Beppino permission to find doctors who would end her life. The Vatican and Catholic Church fiercely opposed the ruling.
The Italian senate was in the middle of reviewing Englaro's case when the clinic announced she had passed away. After an appeal to the president failed, government officials tried an alternative route by inspecting the clinic where Englaro was being held, checking to see if it was appropriate as a "hospice":
Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi, who wants her kept alive, said an inspection at the weekend had reported "irregularities." He said the clinic did not meet the requirements of the court ruling which called for Englaro to be allowed to die in a hospice, rather than a clinic.
Regional authorities sent their own inspectors on Monday to establish if Sacconi's objections warranted halting the suspension of food to the woman. The clinic's deputy director, Luciano Cattivello, told reporters it fulfilled all legal requirements.
One of the "anomalies" of the clinic was that the staff there were volunteering, but otherwise all aspects of Englaro's care followed protocol and procedure.
The speed with which Englaro passed away is somewhat surprising, given the fact that her doctors suspected it might take up to two weeks without food for her body to succumb. Though the senate began debating the topic today, it likely would have taken at least another few days for bill approval:
The center-right prime minister is pushing through parliament, where he has a large majority, a law that would ban suspending food to patients who can no longer feed themselves.
The Senate should discuss the law on Monday. It then goes to the lower house which is unlikely to vote before Wednesday.
Englaro's doctor, Carlo Alberto Defanti, said that besides the irreversible damage to her brain, her physical condition was good and it could take two weeks from the suspension of food before her heart stopped.
Various groups have been staging protests over the last week, while Italy as a whole remained divided on the subject of euthanasia and a patient's right to die, with 47% in favour, 47% against, and 6% undecided on the issue.
However, those who supported Englaro's right to die can rest assured that the Vatican has already issued a statement saying that God 'forgives' those responsible for her death.
It is unknown if the Italian parliament will continue to push the new bill through, and if so whether it will pass now that the pressure to save Englaro no longer exists.
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