Italian courts are grappling with their own Terri Schiavo, a 34- year-old woman, Eluana Englaro, who has been in a coma for 15 years after an automotive accident. Her elderly father, Beppino, wants to turn off her feeding tube because she is living in an "inhuman and degrading condition".
The case has been working its way through the courts. A year ago, a court in Milan refused to authorise removal of nutrition and hydration. But earlier this month, Italy’s highest appeals court ordered a retrial. The Cassation Court declared that a person’s right to decide what medical treatment they receive should be respected even if doing so would cause their death.
Doctors say Eluana will never regain consciousness. Otherwise, however, she is healthy and has never required life-support systems. Her father asserts that she said plainly during her conscious life that she would not wish to live in a vegetative state. He has often compared her situation with Terri Schiavo’s.
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