From our correspondent
The Italian Chamber of Deputies began, on Monday, December 13, to debate a soberly titled bill “Provisions relating to medically assisted voluntary death”. Given the very busy parliamentary agenda, the debate, which has barely begun, will resume in February 2022 and the text will then be put to a vote. But for the country, it is indeed a major turning point on this ultra-sensitive issue.
For the first time in the history of Italy, in fact, Parliament is examining a text authorizing, under strict conditions, medical aid to an adult patient who decides to end his life. “Our bill is inspired by the sentence of the Constitutional Court which partially decriminalized assisted suicide in 2019, one year after inviting the Chambers to legislate”, explains the deputy of the Democratic Party Alfredo Bazoli, rapporteur of the bill.
The text amended in committee specifies that assisted suicide will be authorized by an ethical committee, within the public health system, for patients suffering from an irreversible and fatal pathology, a source of physical and psychological suffering that they consider intolerable. They must also be kept alive by treatment, while being able to make free and conscious decisions.
In Italy, Doctor Mario Riccio is the first doctor to have publicly declared that he would help to die of a terminally ill patient. It was in 2006. Today, head of the anesthesia and intensive care unit of a hospital in Lombardy, he explains: “Allowing assisted suicide only for patients with life-sustaining treatment is discriminatory. Deprived of this type of treatment, no terminally ill patient will be able to end their suffering peacefully and in a few minutes. “
The bill introduces another criterion: the patient who requests assisted suicide must be involved in a palliative care process. “What does this mean in concrete terms? “, wonders Marco Cappato, figurehead of the Luca-Coscioni association which fights for the right to assisted suicide and euthanasia. “Generally, patients requesting assisted suicide refuse palliative care and deep sedation (authorized by a law of 2017) which only results in death after several days. “
Conversely, for Jacopo Coghe, vice-president of the association Pro Vita & Famiglia, “The state should give hope and relief to patients with incurable pathologies instead of offering them death.” He adds : “We are demanding more public funds for palliative care, which in turn respects the values of life.Currently, only 30% of cancer patients requesting this type of support get it. “ The Catholic association also criticizes the impossibility of retroactively suing the doctors and nurses involved in assisted voluntary death. “It is an open door to dangerous drifts”, says Jacopo Coghe.
Finally, the text provides for conscientious objection for medical personnel. “My Catholic sensitivity convinces me that it is right to leave a freedom of choice”, underlines the rapporteur of the project, Alfredo Bazoli. But for Marco Cappato, this objection could limit the right to assisted suicide. “It’s a risk, at least in regions where 95% of doctors use the conscience clause to avoid performing abortions. “
The protocols and deadlines for the self-administration of a lethal product will be entrusted to the Ministry of Health, which will have to decide after the entry into force of the law. “She is certainly imperfect, admits Alfredo Bazoli. But a step forward has been taken and a compromise has already been found between the center-left and the right-wing parties which voted against the text in committee. They undertake not to hinder the parliamentary process. “