Eluana Englaro’s Life in Jeopardy Again, New Region Will Follow Order to Kill Her

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 22, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Eluana Englaro’s Life in Jeopardy Again, New Region Will Follow Order to Kill Her

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 22
, 2009

Rome, Italy (LifeNews.com) — Eluana Englaro’s life is in jeopardy again as a new region has stepped up and said it would follow the court ruling allowing the disabled woman’s father to take her life. The battle, similar to the one fought over Terri Schiavo, involves a father’s request to kill his daughter via a painful starvation and dehydration death.

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.

In November, the highest court in Italy granted Englaro’s father the right to kill her via euthanasia by removing her feeding tube.

After that, officials in Milan, the capital of the Lombardy region where Englaro is hospitalized, has since barred hospitals under its control from carrying out the decision.

Now, officials in the northwestern Piedmont region are ready to help her father take her life.

Piedmont’s governor Mercedes Bresso told AFP "Eluana’s tragic story has become unbearable for a civilized country, from a legal and human point of view."

He said the region was ready to get involved because of "the lengthy legal battle followed by the disrespect of the father’s rights."

An attorney representing Englaro’s father told AFP that he is considering the offer.

"The offer from Piedmont is a first step forward. We will examine it, but we are being cautious because being at the head of a region does not mean you have all the powers," Vittorio Angiolini told AFP.

Several other regions had offered to help but changed their minds when Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi pressured them to reserve their positions. Sacconi warned that hospitals receiving government funds would face consequences for killing the disabled woman.

Recently, a group of more than 700 doctors in Italy signed their names to a letter supporting Eluana Englaro’s right to life.

The letter says that physicians have a duty to help people who can’t feed themselves and that removing her food and water would go against the World Medical Association’s 1964 Helsinki declaration.

The Italian nuns at the Blessed Luigi Talamoni clinic in Lecco, Lombardy who are caring for Englaro refuse to withdraw her food and medical care.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the archbishop of Milan, says he is hoping civil authorities will "change their minds" about allowing "a beloved creature of God" to be deprived of food and water.

Both the government and Catholic officials are worried the Englaro decision will pave the way for a court ruling or legislation in the Italian parliament that would legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Some pro-life advocates are looking at the legal possibility of getting appointed as Eluana’s guardian, replacing the decision-making of her father, or taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.

If the feeding tube is pulled, Englaro will be starved and dehydrated to death in the same painful manner that took Terri Schiavo’s life over the course of 13 days four years ago.

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 patients are unable to make their own medical decisions.

Last year, some of Italy’s leading neurologists said Englaro should not be killed and they questioned 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.

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