Italian President Advocates Debate on Legalizing Euthanasia

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has encouraged debate on changing the country’s law against euthanasia, in a letter to a terminally ill man who is requesting permission to end his life, Reuters reported Monday. Euthanasia is illegal in the Roman Catholic country.

“I accept your message of tragic suffering with sincere understanding and solidarity,” Napolitano wrote to Peirgiorgio Welby, who suffers from advanced muscular dystrophy.

Napolitano said Welby’s request should be given “unhurried reflection” and should lead to “sensible and thorough debate.”

“The only unjustifiable position would be silence,” he wrote.

The Vatican responded to the debate by reiterating the Church’s position that human life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death, and said the desire of the suffering to end their life indicates society has failed to offer them sufficient care.

“A sick person who feels surrounded by a humane and Christian presence will not ask to end his life, and this is why euthanasia is a defeat for those who theorize about it, opt for it and carry it out,” wrote theologian Marco Doldi for the Religious Information Service of the Italian Church.

“It would be a good idea to ask oneself if the reason for the unbearableness of the patient’s pain derives from the inability of healthy people to stand by their sides through suffering and sickness, which is scandalous for a society based on health and hedonism.”

Lower House deputy speaker MP Pierluigi Castagnetti entered the debate with criticism against euthanasia advocates for polarizing the debate along religious lines, saying it is not necessary to be Catholic to say that life is sacred.

“Reason forbids us to give to the state the power to decide if and when life must end even if the state is asked to do it by the person who is interested in it,” Castagnetti said, as reported by AGI.

“In this way we would legitimate every kind of euthanasia also without objective premises and would morally legitimate also the suicide.”

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, emphasized the danger posed by legal euthanasia to those who are ill and vulnerable, saying, “We can never allow the intentional killing of one person by another. Regardless of the individual situation, you cannot give the right to another person to take your life, you cannot cross this line, for any reason, because that becomes a clear threat to other vulnerable people. We can’t control it.”

In the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2001, surveys by Dutch researchers have shown that doctors have killed at least 1,000 patients annually through euthanasia without the patient’s consent or request. This year the Netherlands legalized the killing of children under the age of 12 by euthanasia, without consent &#0151 it is already legal to euthanize children between the ages of 12 and 17 if they request death.

Schadenberg echoed Doldi’s call for a re-evaluation of the quality of care offered to those suffering with debilitating disease.

“My heart goes out to [Welby] &#0151 the question is, are we providing the right kind of care for him, not just physical but for his emotional, psychological needs that he has as a human person?

“Does society provide the proper care for people who are suffering debilitating disease, which makes them feel dignified in their situation, or do we provide them only substandard care, making them feel abandoned by our society?”

The Council of Europe overwhelmingly rejected a draft resolution calling for legal euthanasia in 2005, with 138 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voting against the measure and only 26 voting in favor.

Nevertheless, Bishop Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, warned that “We must expect that pressure in favor of euthanasia will attack again with similar proposals, given that, in Europe, some countries have approved euthanasia.”

Napolitano, a former communist, was elected to the Italian presidency in May 2006.

(This article courtesy of

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage