Italy's Constitutional Court rejects referendum on euthanasia

A memorial for Eluana Englaro, a symbol for the fight for euthanasia in Italy, who died in 2009 after being in a vegetative state following a car accident 17 years ago.
A memorial for Eluana Englaro, a symbol for the fight for euthanasia in Italy, who died in 2009 after being in a vegetative state following a car accident 17 years ago. Copyright Credit: AP
By AFP with Euronews
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A petition for a referendum on the right to die had collected more than 750,000 signatures last August, well above the threshold required to trigger a vote.

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Italy's Constitutional Court has rejected a petition to hold a referendum on euthanasia and legally-assisted suicide.

The court said a proposed vote on the matter would not sufficiently protect "weak and vulnerable" people and would therefore violate the constitution.

A petition for a referendum on the right to die had collected more than 750,000 signatures last August, well above the threshold required to trigger a vote.

Under Italian law, anyone who helps a person commit suicide faces between five and 12 years in prison.

In 2019, the Italian Constitutional Court amended the law on assisted suicide, ruling that euthanasia would be allowed for terminally ill patients suffering from "unbearable" physical or psychological pain and kept alive by machines.

Such patients must, however, be capable of making "free and informed decisions" and have their decision approved by local health authorities and an ethics board approved.

Anyone who does not fall into this category has no legal right to assisted suicide, the court said.

Despite several high-profile stories in recent years, opposition to legally assisted suicide is strong in Italy, a country where the Catholic Church is highly influential.

"For us, it is bad news, but also for those who will have to suffer even more," said Marco Cappato, one of the leading advocates of a referendum. 

The issue will now be debated by Italy's parliament.

The Constitutional Court examined seven other possible referendums on Tuesday, including a vote on decriminalising cannabis production and use.

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