The case of Eluana Englaro shakes Italy up: a medical and political struggle

Publié le 28 Feb, 2009
Eluana Englaro, a 38-year-old young Italian woman who fell into a coma after a car accident 17 years ago, died on Monday 9th February, without nutrition and hydration during 3 days, after a long judicial struggle which shook Italy up. At Eluana’s father request made since 1999, the Court of Appeal of Milan authorised on 9th July 2008 the suppression of feeding for the young woman, the public prosecutor’s office immediately appeals to the Court of Cassation, but it rejected the appeal on November 2008. From then on, the government, the Church and various organisations do their best to save Eluana from a certain death.


Medical struggle to save Eluana
The minister of Social Affairs Maurizio Sacconi, reminds that “Eluana is not in a brain death state nor subject to therapeutic obstinacy, she is tube fed and hydrated, condition in which are various handicapped people”. 
The chairman of the College of Physicians of Milan states that such a decision authorising the disconnection of Eluana represents a high interference in the deontological code of physicians and goes beyond the judicial powers. 25 neurologists from universities and national sanitary service write to the chief prosecutor of the Court of Appeal of Milan, to the President of the Republic and to the government so that they blocks “the execution of what looks like more and more to a death sentence”. Finally, Cardinal Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care launched an appeal so that “this abominable assassination” is stopped.


Political struggle against the clock
On 3rd February 2009, Eluana is transferred to a Udine private hospital, in the north of the country where a medical team was established to “disconnect” the young woman whereas in December 2008 the minister for Social Affairs, addressed a warning to the hospitals which would accept to welcome Eluana in order to disconnect her and promulgated an order prohibiting to public hospitals from interrupting care.
On 6th February, first day when Eluana stopped to be hydrated, Silvio Berlusconi’s government adopted an emergency decree to guarantee to any people to be fed and hydrated but the president of the Republic refused to sign it due to some “unconstitutional” aspects. Then Silvio Berlusconi convened the Parliament so that the law is adopted in only two or three days.
But on Monday 9th February, Eluana Englaro died and if this death could not be avoided, the leaders of the majority announced that they will carry on reviewing the text. The affair is not a cold case…

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