Dying Italian stirs euthanasia debate
Rome - A dying Jehovah's Witness in Italy has won the legal right not to receive treatment, sparking a heated debate on Thursday between supporters and opponents of euthanasia in this predominantly Catholic country.
"I don't want my life to be prolonged if doctors are reasonably convinced that my case is hopeless," Clarice Di Tullio, 48, had told the court in Treviso in northern Italy. Judges respected her wish in a ruling earlier this week.
She has multiple sclerosis - a disease affecting the brain and spinal cord.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government, which is attempting to pass a bill in parliament that would outlaw these types of end-of-life decisions, reacted angrily to the Di Tullio ruling.
The judgment "aims to introduce assisted suicide which is not allowed under our laws," said Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi, a militant Catholic.
"Only parliament can take such important decisions. I hope it never does."
But Massimo Cozza from the leftist CGIL Medici trade union said: "This judgment does not help assisted suicide but rather guarantees respect for the will expressed" by patients under the ethical code used by doctors.
That view was shared by Ignazio Marino, a senator from the main opposition Democratic Party who is himself a doctor. "The judge took a decision knowing the cause and taking into account also the religion of the person," he said.
Last month lawmakers approved a draft law that states that treatment to feed and give water to patients can never be suspended unless they "are no longer efficient or adapted to the living conditions of the patient".
The law, supported by the Vatican, still has to be approved by the Senate.