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Italy turns down national right-to-die referendum

Italy turns down national right-to-die referendum

People walk on a street decorated with holiday lights in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 11, 2021. (Xinhua)

Italy’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday turned down a request to hold a national referendum on the right to die after proponents of the move collected over a million signatures in support.

Italian right-to-die advocates seek to partly abrogate sanctions imposed on those who assist in the suicide of patients who have incurable illnesses or suffer intolerable pain and have already had palliative care.

In a statement, the Constitutional Court said repealing punishments would not safeguard the minimum constitutional standards governing the protection of human life, “particularly for the weak and the vulnerable.”

In 2019, the court partially decriminalized assisted suicide under certain conditions if local health authorities and an ethics board approved, but it also advised that parliament should pass a law regulating the practice.

Marco Cappato, one of the leading advocates of a referendum, said the court’s decision was “a bad news for those who suffer and will have to [face] even longer unbearable suffering against their will.”

Right-to-die proponents in 2021 collected more than twice the 500,000 signatures needed to seek approval of a referendum.

Parliament is debating a law that would allow terminally ill patients to seek assisted suicide through the national health system and protect doctors from any legal suits against them.

“The Constitutional Court’s decision must push parliament to approve the law on assisted suicide,” Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter.