'Right-to-die': Italy court refuses to allow euthanasia referendum

WION Web Team
Rome, Italy Updated: Feb 16, 2022, 04:00 PM(IST)

In 2019, the court partially decriminalised assisted suicide under certain conditions with the approval of local health authorities and an ethics committee. Nonetheless, it recommended that parliament should pass a law regulating the practice. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Last year, proponents of the right to die collected more than twice the 500,000 signatures needed to see a referendum approved

Italy's Constitutional Court rejected a request for a referendum on the right to die on Tuesday, even after the initiative's proponents collected more than a million signatures.

Right-to-die advocates in Italy have been trying to force a referendum on the contentious issue in the largely Catholic country where opposition is strong.

They seek to at least partially repeal sanctions against people who assist in the suicide of patients suffering from incurable illnesses or intolerable pain and who have already received palliative care.

Also read | Countries where euthanasia, assisted suicide is legal

The Constitutional Court, however, said that repealing punishments would not safeguard the minimum constitutional standards governing the protection of human life, "particularly for the weak and vulnerable."

"The Constitutional Court's decision must push parliament to approve the law on assisted suicide," Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), wrote on Twitter.

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In 2019, the court partially decriminalised assisted suicide under certain conditions with the approval of local health authorities and an ethics committee. Nonetheless, it recommended that parliament should pass a law regulating the practice.

Among the leading advocates of a referendum is Marco Cappato, who said the court's decision was "bad news for those who suffer and will have to (face) even longer unbearable suffering against their will".

Also read | 'End of life choice act': 28 assisted deaths in first three months of new law

Last year, proponents of the right to die collected more than twice the 500,000 signatures needed to see a referendum approved.

The country's parliament is debating a legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to commit suicide through the public health system and protect doctors from legal action.

Watch | Gravitas: Can a person end their own life to escape pain?

Political parties remain deeply divided on the issue, with the centre-left generally supporting it and the centre-right generally opposing it. The pope has recently condemned assisted suicide, stating that it has no place in medical ethics.

According to a poll by the SWG research group in 2019, 92 per cent of Italians were in favour of allowing assisted suicides and euthanasia. Around 45 per cent said they were in favour of it generally, while 47 per cent said they were in favour in some circumstances.

(With inputs from agencies)

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