Death of author fuels right-to-die debate in Italy

Was it euthanasia or a perfectly legal suspension of treatment?

Was it euthanasia or a perfectly legal suspension of treatment?

The doctor who disconnected the respirator of Italian author and activist Piergiorgio Welby says the latter, as does the small but vocal Radical Party, which championed Welby’s case.

However, headlines on the front pages of the mostly conservative, smaller newspapers published today – most of Italy’s other newspapers did not come out due to a journalists’ strike – claimed otherwise, fuelling the debate over the right to die in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy, where euthanasia is illegal and can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.

“Welby killed,” read the headline on the front page of daily Il Giorno.

Many criticised the Radical Party for using Welby’s case to push their campaign on behalf of euthanasia. In a front page editorial reflecting on the Radical Party’s tradition of civil disobedience, Milan daily Il Giornale said the party reacted with a “conditioned reflex...without realising that what was in play was...a human life.”

Welby died late on Wednesday at age 60 after suffering from the degenerative disease since his teens.

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