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Source (Dutch only): Italië staat voor het eerst hulp bij zelfdoding toe: ‘Ik voel me bevrijd’

Euthanasia debate
Italy allows assisted suicide for the first time: 'I feel liberated'

For the first time, a paralyzed man is officially allowed to receive help to die in Italy. A breakthrough in the euthanasia debate.

Pauline Valkenet - November 23, 2021, 18:56

Activists pushing for a euthanasia law in Italy are elated. Because for the first time, a man who asked for assistance in his suicide has been officially authorized to do so.

The main character in this Italian story is a former truck driver of 43 from the city of Pesaro, in the region of The Marches. He has been paralyzed from his shoulders to his feet since a car accident ten years ago. On Tuesday it was announced that he has been given the green light by the Health Service of The Marches to end his life under the supervision of a doctor.

This is big news in Italy: the daily La Repubblica writes about "a historic page that is turned towards the freedom to choose one's own end of life in this country."

The man from Pesaro wants to remain anonymous - to keep his family out of a media storm - and is therefore called 'Mario'. His mother takes care of him. To be able to end his life, he asked for the help of a national association; that association, called Luca Coscioni, is fighting for the legal introduction of euthanasia. In Italy, a doctor is punishable when she or he enables someone to die.

Constitutional Court sets conditions

Assisted suicide - where a person takes a lethal drug himself - has been allowed in some cases since 2019 following a ruling by the Constitutional Court. That ruling dealt with assisted suicide for the paralyzed Fabio Antoniani, better known as DJ Fabo, who was driven to Switzerland to die in 2017. From that verdict flowed a number of conditions under which assisted suicide is permitted.

Those conditions have now been invoked by Mario. With the help of the Luca Coscioni association, over a year ago he asked the health authority of The Marches to help him end his life. The public authority refused, whereupon Mario went to the court in Ancona, which ordered the health authority to determine whether the conditions had been met.

'Freed from all tension'

So yes, it has now been revealed: Mario is suffering (among other things) psychologically and physically unbearably, his condition is irreversible and he is capable of making this decision independently and of his own free will. According to news agency Ansa, Mario is relieved: "I feel lighter. I feel liberated from all the tension that has built up these years. I am tired. And no one can tell me that things are not bad enough for me to end it."

On Radio 24, Marco Cappato, treasurer of association Luca Coscioni, told Tuesday that Mario is not there yet: the health service in The Marches must now determine what drug he will receive and how he will be able to take it. Asked by the presenter how many Italians would like to request euthanasia or assisted suicide, Cappato replied, "Many thousands, and maybe more. No one knows, because euthanasia is now only committed illegally here."

Hardly any public debate

There is hardly any public debate in Italy about the possibility of euthanasia or assisted suicide. The parliament - which includes quite a few Catholics - is not taking action. The Vatican on Tuesday called the authorization "an ethical defeat for everyone.

But meanwhile, more and more Italians are in favor of a legal framework for euthanasia. In 2019, a poll showed 92 percent of voters saying "yes" or "yes, depends on the circumstances" to it. The association supporting Mario recently collected over a million signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

Translated with (free version)

Similar coverage in Dutch: Voor het eerst krijgt iemand hulp bij zelfdoding in Italië
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