An Italian doctor says he switched off the life- support system of a terminally-ill man who had lost a legal battle to be allowed to die. Piergiorgio Welby sufered from advanced muscular dystrophy. He died last night. But his anaesthetist denies it was illegal euthanasia, saying it was simply a “suspension of therapies.” Doctor Mario Riccio says he sounded out what his patient wanted, which was firm and final.
“We agreed that he would be sedated intravenously and yesterday evening at around 10pm we began to sedate him,” the doctor explained. “It lasted around 40 minutes. At the start of the sedation, we stopped the assisted ventilation, as he had asked us to do. And Piergiorgio Welby calmy passed away.”
Euthanasia is banned in predominantly Catholic Italy and medics who perform it can face up to 15 years in jail. But, as mourners left tributes outside Welby’s home, Riccio said he believed he had not broken the law and that he was willing to answer magistrates’ questions about his patient’s death.