Italy debates right-to-die case

PM criticised for trying to push through legislation that would keep patients alive.

    Medics at a clinic in northern Italy have begun withdrawing Eluana Englaro's life support [AFP]

    Supporters of Berlusconi have a large majority in parliament and could pass legislation compelling medics to resume feeding Englaro later this week.

    Berlusconi criticised

    Englaro's father has accused the prime minister of playing politics with his daughter's tragic situation.

    "It was a coup de theatre. All I can say is that sometimes reality goes way beyond the wildest imagination," Beppino Englaro told Spain's El Pais newspaper.

    "This is all part of a much bigger fight between Berlusconi and the other powers of the state"

    James Watson,
    political analyst

    He also hit out at the Vatican for openly siding with Berlusconi.

    "The [Roman Catholic] Church has nothing to do with this issue," Englaro said, adding that he felt the church should not "impose its values" on him.

    In an address at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI told his followers that life should be protected.

    "Although disease is part of the human experience we can't get used to it, not only because sometimes it becomes a really heavy and serious burden, but also essentially because we are made for life," he said.

    Corriere della Sera criticised Berlusconi in an editorial, saying that the prime minister was attempting to "ride the wave" of controversy over the case.

    "The Eluana affair looks like an opportunity for Berlusconi to rearrange in his favour the powers of the government and presidency," it said.

    'Moral principles'

    Berlusconi has said that he will not allow the "killing" of Englaro and that the decision to stop feeding her amounts to euthanasia, which is illegal in Italy.

    "I can guarantee on my honour and that of my ministers, that our decision was based on moral principles and there was never a plan to attack anybody," he said on Sunday.

    The issue has put the prime minister in conflict with Giorgio Napolitano, Italy's president, who on Friday refused to sign an emergency cabinet decree that would have prevented medics from removing Englaro's feeding tube.

    "This is all part of a much bigger fight between Berlusconi and the other powers of the state, the judiciary in particular, the president as we saw last week and parliament," James Watson, an Italy-based political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

    "He has used this issue in order to increase the prime ministerial powers at the expense of the judiciary."

    Medical experts say it could take more than two weeks for Englaro's heart to stop, but that the suspension of food and water will have irreversible effects on her weakened body in a matter of days.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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