Right to die activists in Italy are working to bring the country one step closer to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Politico reports that activists have launched a petition asking for a referendum that would legalize active euthanasia in the country. Campaigners need to collect 500,000 signatures in order to bring the referendum closer to becoming reality.
Politico’s story features a 43-year-old man named Mario who became quadriplegic after suffering a car accident 10 years ago. Mario is leading the charge in gathering signatures and fighting for euthanasia laws so that he can end his own life. Supporting him is the country’s Health Minister, Roberto Speranza, who has said that he hopes Parliament “would find a consensus” to change the laws.
An Italian Constitutional Court decriminalized euthanasia after a 2019 ruling that acquitted activist Marco Cappoto from abetting in the euthanasia of Fabiano Antoniani. Antoniani suffered serious injuries in a 2014 car crash and committed euthanasia in 2017 after Cappoto helped him get to Switzerland, where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal. While the act is decriminalized, the Italian Parliament has yet to officially legalize euthanasia in the country. Activists hope that the petition calling for a referendum will spur them to action.
Current estimates say about 50 people per year travel from Italy to Switzerland’s suicide clinics. Should Italy pass a law allowing euthanasia within its borders, the number seeking euthanasia will likely skyrocket, with even pro-euthanasia activists claiming they expect 8,000 to 10,000 people to take their own lives if the law passes. However, as has been seen in other countries, the demand for euthanasia and assisted suicide often outweighs projections.
Francesca Romana Poteggi of the group Pro Vita & Famiglia opposes the pro-euthanasia referendum. She believes that more should be done to improve palliative care in the country so that suffering people can be more comfortable.
“[People who request assisted suicide] usually just don’t want to die, they just want their suffering to end,” she said, adding “Maybe an old person alone in a care home could consider suicide but if he were cared for at home with family it could be another story. We retain that the state should try to eliminate suffering, not the sufferer.”
A 2021 study out of Ireland revealed that older people in Ireland who express a desire to die are frequently suffering from depression and loneliness and that the desire for death was temporary in 72% of those individuals. Additional studies have found that those who seek assisted suicide are not looking for a so-called “dignified” death but rather are dealing with depression and fear being a burden to loved ones.
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