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First Assisted Suicide in Italy: Path Open to Generalized Euthanasia by Hélène de Lauzun

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First Assisted Suicide in Italy: Path Open to Generalized Euthanasia

Since 2019, a legal provision has allowed the use of euthanasia in certain cases in Italy, even though it remains officially prohibited. 

An activist association, the Luca Coscioni Association, has just announced the death by assisted suicide of Federico Carboni, aged 44, euthanized Thursday, June 16th, 2022 at 11:00 am. The identity of the patient concerned had been kept secret until it was revealed on Friday, June 17th, in an official statement from the association.

Carboni is the first Italian to benefit from a physician-assisted suicide, made possible by the ruling 242/2019 of the constitutional court. The ruling is known as the Cappato e Antoniani case. At the time, the patient, Fabiano Antoniani, completely paralyzed after a car accident, had been taken to Switzerland by Marco Cappato, treasurer of the Luca Coscioni Association, to be euthanized. The courts eventually ruled in favor of Cappato’s act. 

By November of 2019, the Italian constitutional court removed criminal punishment from those who help people in a state of terminal illness die peacefully and painlessly. The ruling stipulated certain conditions: the patient must make a free and deliberate decision; medical records must confirm the presence of irreversible pathology; medical professionals must offer assurances of supportive treatments as an alternative option; proof must be provided to confirm intolerable physical and psychological living conditions; public facilities must provide health care; the assisting member must seek and receive the opinion of the ethics committee. 

Federico Carboni, known for a long time under the pseudonym of “Mario,” like Marco Cappato had also been paralyzed following a car accident. He persisted with paralysis for twelve years until he began demanding the right to assisted suicide. A petition, orchestrated by the association, had collected more than one million signatures, to ask for a referendum on the question of euthanasia. The communication campaign for the petition was based on the “Mario case.” The authorization to end his life was given by the regional authorities in November 2021, after a long legal battle. It remained to determine the modalities of his death, finally decided on February 9th, 2022. 

Federico Carboni self-administered the lethal drug at his home through a special machine, at a cost of €5,000. These costs were entirely borne by him, although the Luca Coscioni Association had launched a fundraising campaign to help him cover them. 

His suicide was carried out in the presence of a medical authority. 

Upon hearing the news of “Mario’s” death, Fr. Angelo Spina, Archbishop of Ancona, in the Marche region where Carboni resided, made known his deep disapproval. “Suicide is a defeat for humanity. We are here to help life, not death. We need a society of solidarity,” he explained in an interview with the local press

Carboni’s militant gesture has opened the door for some in the Italian political class to expand the ruling of the constitutional court 242/2019 towards a law authorizing euthanasia. Invoking the cost of an assisted suicide—in Mario’s case borne by the patient—the regional councilor of Puglia, Fabiano Amati, thus explained that “the provision of assistance in dying is a duty of the regional public health system.” 

Councilor Amati is presently working on a regional bill to enact euthanasia locally.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).