Italy’s constitutional court rejects euthanasia referendum
ROME — Italy’s Constitutional Court shot down a referendum bid to decriminalize assisted suicide on Tuesday, judging that there were inadequate protections for the weakest.
Right-to-die advocates in Italy have been trying to force a referendum on the contentious issue in the largely Catholic country where opposition is strong, having gathered 750,000 signatures in August, well above the minimum required.
In announcing its decision, the court said in a press release the proposed referendum would not guarantee the constitutionally guaranteed “minimum protection of human life in general, particularly with reference to weak and vulnerable persons.”
Under current Italian law, anyone helping another person commit suicide can be jailed for between five and 12 years.
In 2019, the court called on parliament to clarify its law on assisted suicide, saying euthanasia could be permissible for those with an incurable illness causing “intolerable” physical or psychological suffering, who were being kept alive by life support measures.
Those patients, however, must remain capable of making “free and informed decisions”, it ruled.
Anyone who does not fall into this category has no current legal recourse to assisted suicide in the country.
Despite several high-profile cases in recent years, there remains strong opposition to assisted suicide in Italy, where the Catholic Church still holds major sway.
Following the ruling, the heads of the Democratic Party and Five Star Movement — both within the coalition government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi — said it was now up to parliament to finally address the issue with a concrete law.