Euthanasia supporters in Italy have held vigils in Rome and dozens of other cities in support of a terminally ill man whose request to be helped to die was rejected by a court. Piergiorgio Welby suffers from advanced muscular dystrophy. A judge ruled that while he had the right to have his respirator removed doctors could not be ordered to do so.
Welby’s sister, attending the Rome vigil, reflected his supporters’ mixed reaction: “One the one hand the verdict acknowledges my brother’s right to ask what he asked,” she said. “But there’s no law that assigns the duty to anyone. It’s a legal void that only our politicians can fill.”
The 60-year-old is almost completely paralysed but remains lucid. His case has deeply divided the nation and stirred political debate in a country where euthanasia remains illegal. Speaking via a computer that interprets his eye movements, Welby has appeared on news programmes. He has even written to Italy’s president asking to be taken off the machine that keeps him alive so he can, in his words, “find peace for my tortured and shattered body”.