- Italy could hold a referendum on voluntary euthanasia after a petition gained over 750,000 signatures.
- “Just as I have the right to treatment, I have the right to end my suffering,” a spinal-injury patient said.
- The Vatican opposes the move, calling assisted suicide an “intrinsically evil act.”
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Italy has become one step closer to holding a referendum on legalizing voluntary euthanasia after a petition in favor gained over 750,000 signatures, Euro News reported.
Petitions in Italy are required to meet a threshold of 500,000 signatures to trigger a public vote.
Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in the country.
Campaigners have been petitioning to abolish a law that says the homicide of a consenting person should be punished with up to 15 years in jail.
In 2019 a constitutional court in Italy added an exception for “patients kept alive by treatment […] and affected by an incurable disease that causes physical and psychological suffering they find intolerable.”
Activists say that a successful referendum on assisted suicide would be the first step towards putting forward a bill legalizing voluntary euthanasia, according to Catholic News Agency.
Currently, Italian law punishes assisted suicide with a sentence ranging from 5 to 12 years in prison.
The movement to legalize voluntary euthanasia gained national traction because of the case of a 43-year-old spinal-injury patient, identified only as Mario, POLITICO said.
Mario was paralyzed in a car accident ten years ago, and in a letter to Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza, Mario said he lived “in constantly increasing pain.”
“Just as I have the right to treatment, I have the right to end my suffering,” he wrote.
Speranza, who leads the left-wing party Article One, said that he favored changing the law and that he hoped parliament “would find a consensus,” POLITICO reported.
Although polls suggest that as many as 9 in 10 Italians back the legalization of euthanasia, the move has faced fierce opposition from conservative religious figures in the country.
Instead of legalizing voluntary euthanasia, she said more should be done to improve palliative care and treat depression and loneliness.
Voluntary euthanasia, where a doctor deliberately administers fatal drugs to a patient, is currently legal in several European countries, including Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Spain became the fifth European country to legalize it in March of this year.
Estimates suggest that up to 50 Italians travel to right-to-die clinics in Switzerland every year, according to POLITICO.
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