Court Grants Italy Father Right to Kill Eluana Englaro By Starving Her to Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 13, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Court Grants Italy Father Right to Kill Eluana Englaro By Starving Her to Death

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 13
, 2008

Rome, Italy ( — The highest court in Italy has granted the right to a disabled woman’s father to kill her via euthanasia by removing her feeding tube. Eluana Englaro has been in what doctors term a so-called vegetative state following a car accident and has received food and water via a feeding tube.

Englaro has been 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.

She will now be starved and dehydrated to death in the same painful manner that took Schiavo’s life over the course of 13 days four years ago.

The Court of Cassation rejected an appeal by prosecutors of a lower court ruling from July that allowed Beppino Englaro to kill his daughter. Beppino claimed Eluana had told him shortly before her accident that she had visited a comatose friend and said she didn’t want to be in the same condition.

Under Italian law, killing a patient via direct euthanasia with an overdose of drugs is illegal and patients have a right to refuse treatment, but the law doesn’t address cases like Englaro’s when the patient is unable to make their own medical decisions.

Responding to the ruling, Beppino told the ANSA news agency that the decision "confirms that we live under the rule of law" and he said he is happy the decade-long legal battle has come to a close.

Conservative lawmakers, pro-life groups and the Catholic Church all opposed allowing the euthanasia death and condemned the ruling.

Enrico La Loggia, a legislator in Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s party, called the decision a "death sentence" and the Vatican’s top health official, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, told the Apcom news outlet that the decision is "killing a person."

The state attorneys had asked Italy’s top court to issue a temporary injunction preventing Beppino Englaro, Eluana’s father, from killing his daughter before the case can be heard.

Earlier this year, some of Italy’s leading neurologists said 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.

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

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