There is a BBC report with this title: ”Euthanasia in Europe: A Continent Divided” – accessible here. (And, yes, so that this is clear, the report comes from 2009.) Following is the section from this report on the situation in Italy:
Euthanasia is illegal, but Italian law upholds a patient’s right to refuse care and the potential contradiction has resulted in several cases which have divided Italians.
The debate is especially passionate in Italy, where the Roman Catholic Church, which is deeply opposed to euthanasia, still holds great sway.
In 2006, Piergiorgio Welby – a terminally-ill man with a severe form of muscular dystrophy – died after a protracted legal dispute during which he described his life as torture.
A judge had ruled that he did not have the right to have his respirator removed, and when anaesthetist Mario Riccio switched off his life support he was investigated by a judge for “consensual homicide”. He was eventually cleared and the judges involved called on politicians to change the law.
In July 2007 came the case of Giovanni Nuvoli, a 53-year-old former football referee with advanced muscular dystrophy, who died after going on hunger strike because he was not allowed his request to die without suffering.
Police prevented his doctor, Tommaso Ciacca, from switching off his respirator. Former Health Minister Livia Turco said at the time that it was time Italy had a law “which allows sick people to express their will”.
Then in July 2008, a court in Milan awarded the father of Eluana Englaro, a 38-year-old woman who has been in a permanent vegetative state since a car crash in 1992, the right to disconnect her feeding tubes.
The judges ruled that doctors had proved Ms Englaro’s coma was irreversible. They also accepted that, before the accident, she had expressed a preference for dying over being kept alive artificially.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to intervene after doctors at a private geriatric clinic began to withhold her food, issuing an emergency decree barring doctors halting nutrition to patients in a coma.
However, President Giorgio Napolitano refused to sign it, and three days later, before the Senate could enact a new law barring doctors halting nutrition to patients in a coma, Ms Englaro died.
Following her death, senators agreed to expedite work on a draft law to clarify end-of-life issues.
“There’s a will to urgently agree on end-of-life legislation,” Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi said.
Apparently, the end-of-life legislation now being considered by the Italian government would prohibit any patient decision at all regarding the end of life, including refusal of treatment, nutrition or hydration. Right to Die Europe has made the following statement (15 March 2011):
The law under discussion by the Italian parliament gives rise to great concern among the societies of Right to Die Europe (RtDE) for its disregard of human dignity at the end of life.
It appears that this law would mean that there would be no possibility for people to ask for an end to meaningless medical treatment or for them to refuse medication, food and water when they are terminally ill.
This crucial end of life decision would be taken by a doctor even when a vulnerable patient with a living will, who has fully considered their position, wished to end their life.
It is incredible that a religion that preaches love and compassion has such an inhuman point of view regarding end of life decisions.
The board of Right to Die Europe, and all the member societies support the general principle that in a civilized society human rights should always take precedence.
Fortunately, for as long as there have been patients and doctors, compassionate doctors all over the world have helped the vulnerable patients in their care to die if they have explicitly made this request.
–Aycke Smook (President, Right to Die Europe)
The source of the proposed law in the Roman Catholic death cult is clear, and needs no further comment. Yet this is the organisation that presumes to dictate morality for the rest of us! And Berlinerblau and Hoffman, Baggini and Stangroom, Kazaz and Mooney et. co, think that it is inappropriate for nonbelievers to treat such organisations and their leaders with disrespect. They deserve our contempt, and that is all they will get from me.
However, part of the statement is seriously in error. The statement reads: “It is incredible that a religion that preaches love and compassion has such an inhuman point of view regarding end of life decisions.” The Roman Catholic Church does not preach love and compassion. It preaches the absolute and inviolable moral law as revealed to the church and discernible (they claim) by human reason (but this last is an old scholastic trick). This law is unbending, and has nothing whatever to do with love or compassion. This has been made brutally clear in a number of recent cases. It needs no further argument. Some, like Karen Armstrong, claim that the heart of religion is kind. It is not. The heart of religion is worldly wealth and power. This is not to say that there are no humanly good and compassionate people who are also religious, but it has nothing intrinsically to do with religion. Religion itself is a poison.