Italian woman in right-to-die controversy dies


ELUANA ENGLARO, the 37-year-old comatose Italian woman who has been at the centre of a “right-to-die” controversy, died in a clinic in northern Italy last night, three days after doctors disconnected her feeding tubes in accordance with her family’s wishes.

Her father, Beppino Englaro, had waged a 10-year legal and political battle for Eluana’s right to die in accordance, he claims, with her wishes expressed before the 1992 car crash which left her in a “persistent vegetative state”.

Last November, in a landmark judgment, the Italian supreme court finally gave Mr Englaro the right to allow Eluana to die, ruling that her condition after 17 years in a coma was clearly “irreversible”. The court also accepted that Eluana, prior to the accident, had expressed her opposition to being kept alive in the event of such serious injuries.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who attempted to introduce a ministerial decree last Friday that would have obliged the clinic to restart Eluana’s feeding process, expressed his “deep distress” last night that it had not been possible to save Eluana’s life.

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano sparked off a constitutional crisis on Friday by refusing to countersign Mr Berlusconi’s decree, arguing that to do so would have been to override a ruling of the supreme court and also that such a delicate, complex matter should best be debated in parliament.

That same Berlusconi decree, converted into a Bill, was last night being debated by the Italian senate when the news came through that Eluana had died. Senator Gaetano Quagliarello of the Berlusconi Freedom Party alliance prompted uproar by announcing: “Eluana did not die, she was killed.”

Beppino Englaro, speaking from his home in Lecco, northern Italy, where he is nursing his gravely ill wife, Saturna, said that he had nothing to say adding that he wanted to “be alone”.

The Vatican’s “health minister”, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, said that if Eluana had died because of “human intervention”, then a crime had been committed.