Italy Court Allows Man to Kill His Comatose Daughter, Similar to Terri Schiavo

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 9, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Italy Court Allows Man to Kill His Comatose Daughter, Similar to Terri Schiavo

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 9
, 2008

Rome, Italy ( — In a case that hearkens back to the international debate over the life and death of Terri Schiavo, a father in Italy has received permission from a court to take his daughter’s life. Eluana Englaro has been in what doctors term a vegetative state for 16 years and has received food and water through a feeding tube.

Beppino Englaro, Eluana’s father, has been seeking the right to remove the feeding tube and starve and dehydrate Eluana to death in the same way as Schiavo.

Schiavo’s husband won that right after a years-long legal battle that made its way to the Supreme Court. Though she was able to interact with her parents and siblings, Schiavo died after a painful starvation death that covered nearly two weeks.

Eluana has been in a hospital in the northern Italian town of Lecco since 1992 when she was involved in an automobile accident.

According to a Reuters report, an appeals court in Milan claimed Eluana’s comatose state is irreversible and also claimed that, prior to the accident, she made it clear should would rather die than live in an incapacitated state.

"I feel that I can now free the most splendid creature I have ever known," Beppino Englaro told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "She simply wanted to be left to die, (she wanted) nature to take its course."

He says he wants to release his daughter from "the inhuman and degrading condition" in which she has been "forced to exist" for 15 years.

As a result of the court’s decision, Beppino can now immediately ask doctors to remove Eluana’s feeding tube or he could wait 60 days for state prosecutors to file an appeal, Reuters indicated.
This isn’t the first time Englaro’s case had been in court. In April 2005, the Italian Supreme Court confirmed a lower court ruling to keep her feeding tube in place.

Before that, a lower court rejected the argument because there was no specific evidence on Englaro’s views of life and death.

In addition, the lower court’s opinion stated that to remove the tube required, "valuations of life and death that are rooted in concepts of an ethical or religious nature, which are extrajudicial."

This is the fist national debate over euthanasia in Italy since the death of Piergiorgio Welby, a man who campaigned to change the law there because he wanted to kill himself as a result of his advanced muscular dystrophy.

Welby ultimately died in December 2006 after anesthesiologist Mario Riccio shut off the life support for him.

Riccio unplugged the machine that was helping Welby breathe. He then administered a lethal drug cocktail that killed the 60 year-old man.

At the time he killed Welby, Riccio denied his actions constituted an illegal euthanasia, which could net him between six and 15 years in prison if charged and convicted.

The Catholic Church refused to allow Welby’s family to have a Catholic funeral.

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