[JURIST] Eluana Englaro [materials, in Italian], an Italian woman at the center of a right-to-die controversy in the country, died Monday, shortly after the Italian Senate [official website, in Italian] began debate on legislation [draft text, in Italian] that would make it a crime to remove a feeding tube from a comatose patient. Englaro's father removed her feeding tube on Friday, following the refusal [JURIST report] of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano [BBC profile] to sign a 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. The legislation, heavily supported by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate on Tuesday, and it is not clear whether Englaro's death will effect its passage. 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.
Eluana Englaro has been in a coma since an automobile accident in 1992. Her father, Beppino Englaro, has been fighting to have her feeding tube removed since 1999. In 2005, Italy's Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] upheld [JURIST report] a lower court's ruling to keep her feeding tube in place because they could not find specific evidence on Englaro's personal views of life and death. In October of last year, the Constitutional Court rejected [decision text, in Italian; JURIST report] a parliamentary challenge to a Milan appeals court decision which held doctors could remove Enlargo's feeding tube because she was found to be in an "irreversible" vegetative state. The Court of Cassation's November ruling affirmed that decision. Catholic groups and conservative politicians opposed the decision arguing [Independent report] that the court is permitting euthanasia.