Italian Doctors Appeal to Courts to Not Subject Eluana Englaro to Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 29, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Italian Doctors Appeal to Court to Not Subject Eluana Englaro to Euthanasia

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 29
, 2008

Rome, Italy ( — A group of leading doctors have sent the Italy attorney general a letter asking that the European nation do more to help prevent Eluana Englaro’s euthanasia death. Englaro is the subject of the latest battle similar to the one Terri Schiavo’s family waged to prevent her former husband from denying her food and water.

Englaro has been in what doctors term a vegetative state for 16 years following an automobile accident in 1992 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.

Now, some of Italy’s leading neurologists are saying Englaro should not be killed and they question whether she is in a persistent vegetative state.

"She is not a person in coma, or a terminal patient, but a severely handicapped person in need of special basic care, as occurs in many other situations of serious injuries to parts of the brain that limit the capacity of communication and self-sustenance," they said, according to a Zenit report.

"A patient’s nutrition and hydration, even if assisted, cannot be confused with medical treatment; they have always constituted the fundamental elements of care, precisely because they are indispensable for every human being, whether healthy or sick," they went on to say.

"The tube through which nourishment is received does not alter this elementary truth; rather, it can be compared to a prosthesis or any other type of aid," they explained.

According to the letter which Zenit obtained, the doctors questioned the diagnosis that Englaro can’t recover.

"Despite the fact that the possibilities for recovery are ever less with the passage of time from a cerebral accident, today the concept of permanent vegetative state must be regarded as surmounted and cases have been documented, though they are rare, of partial recovery of contact with the outside world, even after a very long period of time," they said.

"Hence, it is absurd to speak about the certainty of irreversibility," the physicians concluded.

Eluana has been in a hospital in the northern Italian town of Lecco since the accident.

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.


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