Charges May Not Come in Eluana Englaro Case, Medical Hearing on Thursday

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 10, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Charges May Not Come in Eluana Englaro Case, Medical Hearing on Thursday

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 10
, 2009

Rome, Italy ( — Local authorities and officials in the Udine region of Italy are unsure whether the medical staff who removed Eluana Englaro’s feeding tube will face any hearings or charges in connection with her euthanasia death. Englaro died on Monday after four days of starvation and dehydration.

Her death was ordered by an Italian appeals court after her father Beppino had spent the better part of a decade fighting to take her life.

Englaro was expected to live two weeks but she succumbed to the starvation after only four days.

Prior to the removal of her feeding tube, national officials indicated they would prosecute the staff of any medical center that would remove it and cause her death.

On Tuesday, in the chaotic fallout from Englaro’s death, the Udine prosecutor’s office has ordered an autopsy on Englaro’s body.

Public prosecutor in nearby Trieste, Beniamino Deidda, told the Italian news agency ANSA, ”For the moment we have no news from the commission of any crime."

Meanwhile, the Udine branch of the Italian Medical Association is planning a hearing on Thursday to establish whether disciplinary proceedings should go ahead for the medical team that removed her feeding tube.

Eluana’s anesthetist, Amato De Monte, will appear before the panel on Thursday and the rest of the medical team will also be called upon to appear at some point.

”It’s absolutely too early to express any opinion or judgement”, Udine branch president Luigi Conte told ANSA.

De Monte said he had "nothing to hide" and that he would go over the autopsy results with the medical association committee.

Health Undersecretary Eugenia Roccella has accused the medical team of removing Eluana’s feeding tube three days early. The plan had bee to gradually deprive her of food and water but Roccella believes all nutrition may have been stopped on Friday, leading to her premature death.

”I’m not making subtle accusations or insinuations,” she said. ”I’m just saying that the doctors did not apply the protocol that had initially been decided upon."

That Englaro died prior to the time most observers expected has been a concern for pro-life advocates who have followed the case.

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