.- Italian bishops are worried that living wills could open the way for general acceptance of subtle forms of euthanasia.
Several bills have been presented to the Italian parliament proposing the legal recognition of living wills, which detail what sort of medical treatment people would like to receive in given situations if they are unable to communicate with doctors themselves. They are being discussed by parliamentary medical committees.
According to ANSA, Italian bishops are concerned that legislation on living wills "could open the way to a drift towards de facto euthanasia," said Bishop Giuseppe Betori.
The bishops fear the law would fail to distinguish between medical practice and treatment. Bishop Betori said feeding tubes or artificial respirators should be seen as standard medical practice in certain situations, not treatment which a patient could decide to do without, reported ANSA.
"If they are seen as treatment, then you are opening the way to euthanasia," Bishop Betori said, because then a doctor might be obliged to switch off life-sustaining machines and provoke the patient's death.
The head of the Senate health committee, centre-left MP Ignazio Marino, said on Tuesday that the law would “reiterate the ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide and guarantee the patient the possibility to refuse excessive therapy.”
Italian representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist religions last week gave conditional approval to living wills.