Italy grants first authorisation for assisted suicide - campaigners

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An ethics committee in the central Italian region of Marche has given its green light for what will be the country's first assisted suicide, right-to-die campaigners said on Tuesday.

A quadriplegic identified as Mario by activists, although that is not his real name, has been unable to move for 10 years and has asked local health authorities to approve his assisted suicide.

Local ethics committees have the power to authorise or block such requests.

Right-to-die has been for many years an highly contentious issue in Italy, where the Catholic Church, which exerts a strong influence over politics and public opinion, is fiercely opposed to more liberal legislation.

The panel in Marche said that Mario's condition met the requirements laid out by a 2019 constitutional court ruling, which include a chronic and irreversible pathology causing suffering the person considers intolerable.

"I feel lighter, I have relieved myself of all the tension I have accumulated over the years," Mario was quoted as saying by the Associazione Luca Coscioni right-to-die group after learning of the decision.

The committee, which granted the request following a failed petition to the regional health authority and a court appeal, said Mario was able to make his own decisions in a free and informed way.

"It is very regrettable that it has taken so long, but finally, for the first time in Italy, an ethics committee has confirmed the existence of the conditions for assisted suicide for a sick person," said Filomena Gallo, Mario's lawyer.

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