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Euthanasia: The Italian Constitutional Court Cancels a Referendum Project

Militant Italians in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide cleared the first hurdle of their legalization campaign last August by collecting half a million signatures – a figure that later doubled – forcing Parliament to consider the Referendum issue.

The highest court of the country met to debate the admissibility of the referendum entitled “Partial repeal of article 579 of the Penal Code,” which deals with the murder of a consenting person.

The Office of Press and Communications reported that the Court ruled the referendum question out of order on the grounds that, following the repeal, even partial, of the consent killing provision, the minimum constitutionally-necessary protection of human life in general, and especially of weak and vulnerable people, would not be preserved.

The argument is worth noting. It is the “principle of the privation of life” that prevails. Its “expulsion from the legal order would create an irremediable vacuum.” In addition, the Court noted “the question’s lack of clarity, since the effects of the proposed partial derogation are unpredictable and uncertain, are contrary to the transparency which must guide the will of the vote.”

The “Committee for No to the Murder of a Consenting Person,” chaired by Assuntina Morresi and represented in the debate before the Constitutional Court by the jurists Mario Esposito and Carmelo Leotta, expressed “its satisfaction” with the decision of the Constitutional Court.

This decision “makes it possible to approach with more equilibrium the parliamentary discussion on the so-called Bazoli text on euthanasia, which aims – in our opinion wrongly – to apply judgment no. 242/2019 of the same Court, and to highlight the inconsistencies and the overstepping of the limits set by this same Court.”

In Parliament, in fact, the law is being discussed which must transpose the sentence with which, in 2017, the Constitutional Court decriminalized assisted suicide in certain defined circumstances.

The defeat did not discourage the Luca Coscioni association. “It will leave no stone unturned, from civil disobedience to legal remedies,” according to the method dear to radical history, while announcing a commitment on a European scale in favor of “initiatives for freedom of choice at the end of life and for the repeal of prohibitionist rules at European level.”

The leader of Pro Vita & Famiglia, [Pro Life & Family] Toni Brandi, and Jacopo Coghe, the president of the “No to legal euthanasia” committee, thanked “the Court for the courage with which it did not allow itself to be intimidated by political and media pressures of all kinds.”

The Court “has indicated a minimum standard for the protection of inviolable and fragile human life, and the Assisted Suicide Bill violates this minimum standard, going beyond what the Court decided in the Cappato case. We expect from the Chamber of Deputies a response that invests in palliative care and helps the sick to live in dignity, and not to be killed.”

From the Chamber of Deputies, Alfredo Bazoli (Democratic Party) declared that the Court’s decision “does not affect the process of approving the law on assisted suicide,” of which he is the rapporteur, “which is on its way to the House and ready to be discussed.” In fact, he says, it is a law that deals with a different issue.

As for the Catholic Church, although the morality it defends has always been against euthanasia and the holding of the referendum, the voices supporting such barbarism have not been lacking.

Carlo Casalone, Jesuit, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and professor of moral theology at the Gregorian University, published an article in La Civiltà Cattolica – the magazine of the Society of Jesus published with the support of the Secretariat of State – in favor of the law on euthanasia, which earned him the repudiation of 60 pro-life associations.

The Jesuit, and a part of the Pontifical Academy for Life with him, argues by noting that a law on euthanasia risks radicalizing the problem, and that it would be wiser to agree to make a law that is the least bad possible.

But this is to forget that while it is permissible to try to reduce a perverse law by gradually amending it, it is immoral to lend a hand to the birth of a bad law introducing morally reprehensible behavior by “setting guidelines for it.”

The Italian Constitutional Court has ruled inadmissible the referendum on the decriminalization of euthanasia proposed by the Luca Coscioni association. The court’s arguments could make it more difficult for the Italian parliament to approve a similar law.


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