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Sunday, December 17, 2006

 

Piergiorgio Welby - Italian Court Rejects His Plea


See update: A Bouquet for Dr. Mario Riccio

A defeat for proponents of euthanasia. "The judge said that the case fell outside of his jurisdiction, saying politicians needed to address a 'gap' in the law." It is unlikely that Italian legislators would succeed in remedying the gap any time soon. Mr. Welby will have to endure living a life hooked up to high-tech gadgetry -- life that, for him, has ceased to be meaningful.


Here in America we are far from making the choice of death with dignity available to all who desire such an option. Oregon is the only state in the union where a terminally ill person has the right seek physician assistance in dying. The enlightened voters of Oregon made that possible in the face of opposition from religious organizations and the Federal Government. Oregon's Death With Dignity Act survived a few rounds in the U.S. Supreme Court. The shift in balance of power following the mid-term elections will make it difficult for Congress to meddle with the law.

Residents of other states do not have the option of physician assistance in dying but they can take steps to avoid being kept alive against their wish by executing an Advance Directive and Do Not Resuscitate Orders, also known as Living Will. The form is available from Caring Connections. Another source is American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The web sites contain detailed information about the law in all states of the union.

From the BBC: "Mr Welby is confined to bed, is fed through a tube and speaks through a computer that reads his eye movements."





Mr Welby's case has been backed by pro-euthanasia campaigners in Italy's parliament.

Marco Capatto of Italy's Radical Party, a coalition partner in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government, said his group would continue to campaign on Mr Welby's behalf.

"We're determined to support his plea to stop the torture he is suffering," the Reuters news agency reported him as saying.

But conservatives backed the decision.

Rocco Buttiglione, a devout Catholic and part of the centre-right opposition, told Reuters: "No-one can order to kill."

Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left government is divided over the issue. His coalition includes Catholics as well as socialists, who have come out strongly in favour of Mr Welby's right to refuse treatment.

Euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide have been legalised in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, but remain illegal in much of the rest of the world.


Recommended reading:

How We Die : Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland,MD, Vintage Paperback
On Death and Dying by Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross, The MacMillan Co.
Final Exit by Derek Humphrey, Dell Publishing
Euthanasia and the Right to Die edited by A.B. Dowling, Peter Owen, London

*****

Listening to: Bach Cantatas
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
Performer: Peter Kooy, Barbara Schlick, Howard Crook
Orchestra: Collegium Vocale Ghent (Orchestre)
EMI Records


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