Woman in Italian right-to-die case dies

Mon Feb 9, 2009 5:00pm EST
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By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - Eluana Englaro, the comatose woman at the center of a right-to-die case in Italy, died on Monday despite an attempt by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to order doctors to keep her alive through a feeding tube.

The 38-year-old Englaro had been in a coma since a 1992 car crash. Nutrition was stopped four days ago at the request of the family.

The case divided mainly Catholic Italy, with daily demonstrations and sit-ins by those who favored letting her die and those who said it was tantamount to murder.

It also led to a constitutional crisis pitting Berlusconi against the head of state and provoked a debate about whether the Vatican was unduly interfering.

Berlusconi said in a statement he was "deeply pained" to hear of Englaro's death and was "very sad that the government's attempt to save a life were rendered impossible."

A moment of silence was observed in the Senate, which was debating a law that would have forced the clinic in northern Italy where she was hospitalized to resume feeding her through a tube.

The silence quickly turned to shouting and finger pointing as center-left and center-right politicians accused each other of trying to make capital from the case that has riveted Italy for months and raised the ire of the Vatican.

"She didn't die. She was killed," Gaetano Quagliarello, a center-right senator from Berlusconi's party shouted in the senate as other lawmakers screamed "murderers, murderers" toward the center-left benches.   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/Files</p>