A Rome judge today rejected a paralysed man’s request to have his life support machine switched off.
Italian law does not permit his wish to be granted, and Judge Angela Salvio urged lawmakers in the traditionally Catholic nation to deal with such issues as assisted suicide.
Vigils were held tonight in cities throughout Italy to show solidarity with the man, Piergiorgio Welby, whose body has been ravaged for decades by muscular dystrophy.
Supporters also turned out in Trafalgar Square, London, and another vigil was planned for Brussels in Belgium, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Some 200 people, including his sister, turned out for a candlelit rally outside Rome’s City Hall on the Capitoline Hill.
Welby, 60, made a plea to Italy’s president this autumn in his drive to legalise euthanasia, and the tiny, but vocal Radical Party has been championing his cause.
With muscle after muscle paralysed by the condition diagnosed when he was a teenager, Welby for years has been bedridden, and now can barely move his lips and eyebrows.
He receives nourishment through a tube, has been attached to a respirator since 1997 and communicates through a voice synthesiser.
He sought a court order to have the life-support system removed and be sedated.
Judge Salvio ruled that Welby has a constitutional right to determine his own treatment.
But she noted that the Italian medical code requires doctors to maintain the life of a patient, and that physicians, “even when faced with the request of the patient, must not carry out... treatments aimed at causing death.”