Italian euthanasia petition big enough to force referendum

Italian euthanasia petition big enough to force referendum
Photo: Jean-Christope VERHAEGEN/AFP
More than 750,000 people in Italy have signed a petition calling for the legalisation of euthanasia, organisers said on Wednesday, exceeding by far the half-a-million threshold needed to force a referendum on the issue.

A vote could be held as early as next year on the campaign, which calls for changes to the country’s laws on assisted dying.

“Today, without a law to regulate it, euthanasia isn’t a right available to everyone,” said Roberto Saviano, a journalist and writer known for his investigations into the Neapolitan mafia.

“I signed to give a free choice to those unable to travel to countries where euthanasia is legal,” Saviano added in a statement from the Luca Coscioni Association.

READ ALSO: ‘Assisted suicide is not always a crime’: Italian court rules

Anyone helping another person to commit suicide can be jailed for between five and 12 years under current Italian law.

But the constitutional court added an exception in 2019 for “patients kept alive by treatment… and affected by an incurable disease that causes physical and psychological suffering they find intolerable”.

The patient must be “fully capable of taking free and conscious decisions”,the judges added.

People suffering from incurable diseases who do not fall into this category have no legal recourse to assisted suicide.

Referendum backers say that if passed it will allow “medical assistance to choose to die” for “sick people who need help from someone else to end their own suffering”.

Opponents include Mario Adinolfi, head of the small Christian political party Popolo della Famiglia (People of the Family), who said the campaign was a “marketing campaign” for a “culture of death”.

The Vatican has consistently condemned the idea of allowing assisted dying, calling it “an intrinsically evil act”.

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