Italian man Piergiorgio Welby thanked the Doctor who finally provided, as he wrote to Italy’s President, “peace for my tortured and shattered body”, when Rome Anaesthetist Mario Riccio travelled to Cremona to turn off his life support. However, since that there has been no peace for Riccio, who may face six to 15 years in prison for killing the 60 year-old muscular dystrophy sufferer.
The death of Welby on Thursday, just hours after a court said his life-support treatment had to continue against his wishes, has reignited the euthanasia debate in Italy with a vengeance. Except the e-word is absent; the Welby case is all about what constitutes “unreasonable therapy”.
“We seriously need to establish the limit between healing, and obsessive administration of therapy,” says one Member of Parliament. The Health minister also sounds conciliatory: “I’m thinking of the other Welbys we don’t know about. I’m even more committed to do everything I can to help patients feel less alone and abandoned when they are ill”, she said. The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia, but says “burdensome of disproportionate” medical procedures can be stopped.
Welby came down with the disease aged eighteen, and was in a wheelchair by his thirty-third birthday.