Eluana Englaro May be Killed Starting on Friday, Italian Govt May Intervene

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 5, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Eluana Englaro May be Killed Starting on Friday, Italian Govt May Intervene

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 5
, 2009

Rome, Italy (LifeNews.com) — Members of the Italian Parliament are hurriedly trying to put together an emergency measure in an attempt to save the life of Eluana Englaro. She is the disabled woman similar to Terri Schiavo in the United States who has been comatose following an automobile accident and her father wants to take her life.

Earlier this week, Englaro was moved to a new medical facility that may honor her father’s wishes, granted in court, to have her killed.

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

The draft proposal is very short and contains one sentence that makes it illegal for any hospital or medical center to remove her feeding tube and subjecting her to a painful starvation and euthanasia death.

The legislation would apply to any patient in Englaro’s circumstances, not just her personally.

”Nutrition and hydration (artificial feeding), as forms of vital and physiological support targeted to alleviate suffering, cannot be refused in any case by (patients) or suspended by people assisting patients who are not in a position to take care of themselves,” the measure says.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that Health Undersecretary Eugenia Roccella said the government was doing everything in its power in an attempt to save her life before the feeding tube is removed.

The actions are necessary because the staff at the new medical center where Eluana was taken plans to cut her food and water by half starting on Friday.

After three days of partial starvation and dehydration, officials plan to remove the feeding tube.

”It takes a long time to let a person die by removing food and water, but after four days the dehydration produces irreversible damage. We have very little time left (to stop this),” Roccella told ANSA.

ANSA indicated attorneys for Englaro’s father condemned the possible legislation but admitted that it would likely half Englaro’s euthanasia death because they do not want to subject doctors to illegal actions.

The legislation may make it through Parliament but President Giorgio Napolitano is reportedly in doubt as to whether or not he would sign it into law. Napolitano has repeatedly said he wants the parliament to instead consider legislation on living wills and advanced directives that would have no affect on Englaro’s case but help prevent future cases.

The opposition Catholic UDC party is behind the proposal, which is drawing opposition from members of the ruling center-left Democratic Party and the small
Communist Refoundation party.

Should the government approve the resolution it would mark the second occasion on which the government has tried to save Englaro’s life. Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi prevented the transfer of Englaro once before to a clinic that would kill her.

The 37-year-old woman has been moved to the La Quiete clinic at Udine in the northeastern part of the nation. It’s a move that her father Beppino described as the “first step towards the liberation” of his daughter.

A group of pro-life advocates tried to prevent moving Englaro by standing and sitting in front of the ambulance leaving the clinic near Milan where she has been since an automobile accident left her in a coma in 1992.

They shouted “Eluana is living – don’t kill her.”

Amato De Monte, the anesthetist who accompanied Eluana in the ambulance has come under fire for comments he made to the RAI state television network saying that, "Eluana will not suffer because Eluana died 17 years ago."

Human Life International, Rome, says Ms Englaro’s death would lead to more such killings in Italy. Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro said, "We are not fighting for Eluana’s life because she has limited signs of consciousness but because of her dignity as a human being."

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.

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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