Italy court rules assisted suicide not always a crime

Rome (AFP) –


Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that it should not always be punishable to help someone "under intolerable physical and psychological suffering" to commit suicide.

Anyone who "facilitates the suicidal intention... of a patient kept alive by life-support treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology" should not be punished under certain conditions, the top court in the largely Roman Catholic Italy ruled.

The patient's condition must be "causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable," it said.

The court was asked to weigh in on the case of Fabiano Antoniani, known as DJ Fabo, a music producer, traveller and motocross driver left tetraplegic and blind by a 2014 traffic accident.

Marco Cappato, a member of Italy's Radical Party, drove Antoniani to Switzerland in February 2017 where he was helped to die, aged 40.

Cappato hailed the ruling in a tweet: "Those who are in Fabo's condition have the right to be helped. From today we are all more free, even those who disagree. It is a victory of civil disobedience, while the (political) parties turned their heads away".

Left-wing MP Nicola Fratoianni tweeted: "After the ruling, there are no more alibis: parliament should be capable of making a law of freedom for those who ask for self-determination and dignity for their lives."

The court had since Tuesday been re-examining the question of legalising assisted suicide after it gave parliament last October a one-year deadline to fill a legal void on the thorny issue, but MPs did not do so.

- Dying 'without suffering' -

A new government was sworn in two weeks ago after a month of political chaos and debating assisted suicide is not one of its priorities.

"The current legal framework concerning the end of life deprives specific situations... of adequate protection," the court wrote last year.

Cappato turned himself in to Italian authorities after his "act of civil disobedience" to highlight what he saw as an unjust law.

He pointed out that assisted suicide was reserved for those with the physical and financial means to travel to Switzerland, where it is legal.

"I feel like I'm in a cage. I would like to choose to die without suffering," Antoniani wrote to Italian President Sergio Mattarella before his death in Switzerland.

A Milan court is trying Capatto on the charge of "instigating or assisting suicide", but asked the Constitutional Court to clarify the current law.

The Milan tribunal is now likely to acquit Capatto following the decision by the Constitutional Court, which has no legislative power.

Pope Francis last week again spoke out against assisted suicide and euthanasia, days before the Constitutional Court's ruling.

"We can and we must reject the temptation, which is also favoured by legislative changes, to use medicine to satisfy a sick person's possible wish to die," the pope said.