An institutional battle is developing in Italy over the fate of Eluana Englaro.
The Supreme Court of Appeal decided on Friday to allow doctors to switch off her life support systems and let her die. Englaro has been in a coma since a road accident in 1992, and her family has struggled for the last 10 years to get authorisation for euthanasia. Only one clinic in the whole of Italy, in Udine, said it would take her case, and it has begun switching off feeding and hydration to the 38-year old. But minutes after the court decision, the government of Silvio Berlusconi rushed out a decree blocking the doctor’s action and making it in principle illegal. The president, Giorgio Napolitano, appealed to the government to let the courts do their job, and it appears prime minister Berlusconi has ignored him. But Napolitano says he will not sign the decree, preventing its passage into law. The case has divided Italy for a decade, with the church and some politicians rejecting any form of euthanasia, while others deplore Englaro’s being denied the right to die with dignity.