After a prolonged legal battle, the Supreme Court of Italy has ruled food and hydration can be removed from Eluana Englaro, a 37 year-old woman who has been in a coma since 1992 after a car accident, in a similar case to that of Terri Schiavo, who died after 13 days of agony without food or water.
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Attorney General of Milan, who was appealing a lower court ruling that granted permission to euthanize the woman last July. The request to suspend food and hydration was requested by Eluana’s father, Beppino Englaro.
The director of the Athenian Center for Bioethics of the Catholic University, Adriano Pessina, warned last July that a legal ruling of this type “does not consider the principle of the non-disposableness of human life and of the duty, of all civil society as well, not to legitimize the abandoning of therapeutic care and assistance for those citizens who are incapable of providing it for themselves.”
He told the SIR news agency the ruling gives guardians “true life or death power over the person that has been entrusted to them, contravening the meaning of guardianship itself. It is inconceivable that the best thing for somebody is death, something that never constitutes a good that should be protected.”
Pessina said “the interruption of food and water will constitute a slow agony for Eluana, who is guilty of only wanting to stay alive.”
The brother of Terri Schiavo, Bobby Schindler, also commented on the ruling, saying that it “seems to indicate that American ‘medical ethics’ are spreading like a virus among the international community, threatening countless numbers of elderly, ailing and disabled persons in an increasing and alarming way.”
“Our heart goes out to this family as we know very well the profound affect that these types of injuries can have on loved ones. However, we must remember that we have a grave obligation to do all we can to protect those with disabilities, recognizing that a person with a brain injury is a human being with an inherent dignity and a right to life. This young girl needs only food and water and her family’s love to survive. At the very least this should be provided to her.”