The Italian constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that assisted suicide is legal in certain situations, a momentous ruling on a case that has captured public attention in Italy for years.
The ruling came in favor of pro-euthanasia activist Marco Cappato, a member of Italy’s Radical Party.
Cappato helped a famous Italian D.J., Fabiano Antoniani, cross the border into Switzerland to undergo a euthanasia procedure in 2017. Assisting in a suicide is currently punishable by up to twelve years in prison under Italian law, but because of Wednesday’s ruling the law may be open to change.
Antoniani was left blind and tetraplegic after a 2014 car crash. For years he fought to be allowed to commit suicide, saying that he was in unrelenting “physical and mental pain.”
The court ruled that for an assisted suicide to be legal, the patient must have an irreversible condition “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable,” and the patient’s request must be approved by a local ethics committee.
Pope Francis spoke out against euthanasia earlier this month. “We can and we must reject the temptation, which is also favored by legislative changes, to use medicine to satisfy a sick person’s possible wish to die,” he said.
The Pope also quoted his predecessor John Paul II, saying “every doctor is asked to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.”
The Italian Episcopal Conference responded to the court’s decision by quoting Pope Francis’ statements, and also expressed its “discontent and distance” from the ruling.
Filippo Boscia, head of the Catholic Doctors Association, said that his organization’s members would conscientiously object if requested to assist in the euthanasia process. He further excoriated “a slide towards euthanasia and a violation of our professional code”.