February 3, 2009

Eluana is just one step from the end

About two months ago the Corte di Cassazione, Italy’s top appeals court, authorized the father of 37-year-old Eluana Englaro to remove the feeding tube which had kept his comatose daughter alive for nearly seventeen years. It was then that the last legal obstacle in a landmark “right-to-die” case, which has been also called “Italy’s Terri Schiavo case,” was removed once and for all : Eluana would be sentenced to die an atrocious death by being deprived of water and nutrition, thus paving the way for legalized euthanasia in Italy.

Eventually the transfer was temporarily halted by Italy’s health minister Maurizio Sacconi, who issued an official guideline stating that the suspension of treatment for patients in a vegetative state in public health institutions would be “illegal.” But that last-minute attempt to bypass Supreme Court ruling was overruled in turn by a court in Milan on January 21. As a result last night Eluana Englaro was transferred by ambulance to a clinic in the northern city of Udine, where she will be allowed to die. And this time nothing, but a miracle, will stop her “execution” (I know, it’s a terrible word, but I don’t have a better one).

What is upsetting, apart from the two rulings in themselves, is that the nuns of the Misericordine Order, under whose care Eluana has been surviving for 14 years, had repeatedly declared their availability, “today and into the future, to continue to serve Eluana,” and in a letter published in the November 15 2008 Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, they launched a moving appeal :

If there are those who consider her dead, let Eluana remain with us who feel she is alive. We don’t ask anything but the silence and the liberty to love and to devote ourselves to those who are weak, poor and little in return.

The Vatican’s “health minister,” Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, described the decision to move Eluana as “abominable.” “Stop this murder!” he told La Repubblica daily newspaper two days after Pope Benedict XVI rejected euthanasia as a “false” answer to suffering. The bishop of Udine, Msgr. Pietro Brollo, has called on Catholics in the area to gather outside the clinic to stage a prayer vigil in favor of keeping Eluana alive. Yet, as I said before, this time … well, miracles sometimes happen.