Assisted suicide: Court questions constitutionality of Penal Code provision


On 23 October 2018, the Italian Constitutional Court held that the current legal framework regarding the self-determined end of life (Article 580 of the Penal Code) in certain situations does not sufficiently protect fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution. It instructed the Italian Parliament to revise the existing legal provisions accordingly. The final decision regarding the constitutionality of Article 580 of the Penal Code was postponed until 24 September 2019.

According to current Italian law, knowingly contributing to someone putting an end to his or her own life is a punishable crime. The Constitutional Court has now recognised that this violates constitutional rights in cases where suicide appears to be clearly justified. This means that assisted suicide might soon become a legal option in Italy.

In the course of a criminal trial opened in November 2017 against Marco Cappato in Milan for encouraging and assisting suicide, the defence had requested that the Italian Constitutional Court examine whether Article 580 of the Penal Code, introduced decades ago under the fascist regime, was at all in conformity with the Italian Constitution.

Meanwhile, Cappato has been acquitted of the accusation of encouraging suicide. The decision on the accusation of suicide assistance can only be made once the Constitutional Court has conclusively clarified and decided on the question of constitutionality of Article 580.

Marco Cappato had denounced himself to the police after he had brought Fabiano Antoniani (known under his artist name DJ Fabo) to Switzerland for an accompanied suicide in late February 2017, with great attention from the Italian media and the Italian public. The aim of the self-denouncement was to force a precedent which both interprets the current penal code provisions in concrete terms and increases the pressure to amend and liberalise assisted dying legislation in Italy. Italian citizens should no longer have to undertake the arduous journey to Switzerland for an accompanied suicide. The court case also aims to increase public pressure to finally discuss in Parliament a popular initiative for the liberalisation of assisted dying which had been submitted already in September 2013. The discussion has yet to take place.

Another trial against Marco Cappato will take place on 12 November 2018. Also accused is Mina Welby, a well-known exponent of the Associazione Luca Coscioni and widow of Piergiorgio Welby, a pioneer for a self-determined end of life in Italy who passed away in 2006. In April 2017, Mina Welby had accompanied Davide Trentini to Switzerland for an accompanied suicide. Cappato had previously procured the missing financial means for the trip in Italy. The two defendants had waived the hearing scheduled for the end of May 2018, and requested that the verdict be pronounced as soon as possible.


More information on the liberalisation of assisted dying in Italy and the trial against Marco Cappato:




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