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Italy legislature to hold right-to-die vote despite comatose woman's death

[JURIST] Italian lawmakers have said they still plan to vote [Corriere della Sera report] on legislation [draft text, in Italian] that would make it a crime to remove a feeding tube from a comatose patient, despite the death Monday of Eluana Englaro [materials, in Italian], the woman whose case gave rise to the bill. Following the announcement of the death [JURIST report], Italian health minister Maurizio Sacconi [official profile, in Italian] said debate and voting on the bill was still important to prevent the death from "being in vain." Englaro's death, which was reportedly earlier than expected given the removal of her feeding tube on Friday, is now being investigated [ANSA report] by the Italian Medical Association [official website, in Italian], but a spokesperson for the group said it was too early to determine if her doctors had acted appropriately. In reaction to the news of her death, organizations in other parts of Europe have also called for their governments [Deutsche Welle report] to create more definite rules on end-of-life decision making.

The removal of Englaro's feeding tube followed the refusal [JURIST report] of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano [BBC profile] to sign an order prohibiting the action. Napolitano said he could not issue the order given a decision [JURIST report] by the country's Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] allowing removal of the tube. Euthanasia [JURIST news archive] is currently illegal in Italy [JURIST report], but the Court of Cassation distinguished between the removal of a feeding tube and more affirmative steps to end a patient's life.

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