Vatican urges rethink in Italy right-to-die case

Sat Feb 7, 2009 1:01pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - The Vatican and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi piled pressure on Italy's president to change his mind and order that a comatose woman be kept alive in a right-to-die case that has split the mainly Catholic country.

President Giorgio Napolitano has refused to sign a decree by Berlusconi's government which circumvented a high court ruling and ordered doctors to resume force-feeding the woman, who has been in a coma since a car crash in 1992.

In a rare clash with the president, the Vatican publicly sided with Berlusconi on the case, urging Napolitano to reconsider the decree and keep Eluana Englaro alive.

"I think the government is doing everything possible to save Eluana's life," Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the Vatican's health minister, told Italia 1 television on Saturday.

"We ask the Lord that the president of the republic can reconsider ... and find a way to reconcile this decree with the Italian constitution," he said.

Doctors began withdrawing food from 38-year-old Englaro on Friday in line with a ruling by Italy's highest court to allow her to die, as requested by her father.

Hours later, Berlusconi's cabinet issued an emergency decree ordering them to resume feeding the woman, but Napolitano said the measure was unconstitutional because it overruled the country's top judges and refused to sign it.

Analysts said Berlusconi, who won a landslide election last year, was using the highly emotional case to concentrate power in his hands by weakening the head of state and the courts.   Continued...

<p>Car accident victim Eluana Englaro, who has been in a coma for 16 years, poses in an undated family photo in Lecco. REUTERS/Handout</p>