ITALY
Court judgment: Acquittal of Mina Welby and Marco Cappato in the Davide Trentini case

 

On Monday, 27 July 2020, the court in Massa (Tuscany) acquitted Mina Welby* and Marco Cappato** of the Italian organisation Associazione Luca Coscioni of the accusation of inciting and assisting suicide. The court thus specified the term mezzi di sostegno vitale (means of life support) from a judgment by the Italian Constitutional Court and confirmed the right to provide suicide assistance to seriously suffering individuals under certain conditions also in cases where a person does not require artificial respiration but is dependent on medication and other supportive measures in order to keep alive.

In the course of the now concluded criminal proceedings in the case of Fabiano Antoniani (known under his artist name “DJ Fabo”) in Milan, in which Marco Cappato had also been accused of inciting and assisting suicide, the Italian Constitutional Court had ruled on September 24, 2019 that under certain conditions suicide assistance cannot be punishable***, because otherwise constitutionally guaranteed freedoms would be disregarded; the judgment referred to cases where the person concerned is dependent on means of life support, such as artificial respiration.

Cappato was subsequently acquitted. He had brought Fabiano Antoniani to DIGNITAS in Switzerland at the end of February 2017 for an accompanied suicide, with great attention from the Italian press and the public. Antoniani was blind and paraplegic after an accident; he also depended on artificial respiration.

The judgment of the Massa court in the Davide Trentini case now specifies the scope of action for providing suicide assistance. The judges interpreted the concept of “means of life support” in the sense that this includes medication and other means necessary to keep alive.

Davide Trentini had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for over thirty years but did not require artificial respiration. In April 2017, Mina Welby had brought him to Switzerland for an assisted suicide; Marco Cappato had previously procured the funds for the trip. Afterwards the two had reported themselves to the police in Massa.

Despite this welcome court judgment, suicide assistance cannot yet be provided in Italy with impunity in practice, because the legal foundations and institutional structures*** necessary to comply with the preliminary examinations laid down by the Constitutional Court do not yet exist. To date, the Italian Parliament has not yet passed a law that regulates the conditions and modalities under which suicide assistance in Italy is not punishable. Parliament let several deadlines pass, and a citizens' initiative submitted seven years ago to draft a law on assisted suicide has still not been debated in parliament.

The Associazione Luca Coscioni announced that, in the absence of a legal provision, it is prepared to take further precedents to the courts for clarification; in particular, it is discriminatory that, based on existing case law, individuals who suffer severely but are not dependent on any means of life support (e.g. cancer patients who have stopped treatment) are not allowed to be provided with suicide assistance with impunity.

***

* Mina Welby is a well-known exponent of Associazione Luca Coscioni and widow of Piergiorgio Welby, a pioneer for the self-determined end of life in Italy who died in 2006

** Marco Cappato is a politician and secretary of the Associazione Luca Coscioni

*** According to the judgment of the Constitutional Court of 24 September 2019 in connection with the Fabiano case, assisted suicide is no longer a punishable crime if the person concerned can only be kept alive by life-sustaining measures. In addition, there must be serious and irreversible suffering; the wish to die must be firm and well considered and the person must be able to express his or her will clearly; the prerequisites and modalities of implementation must be examined by an institution of the National Health Service (SSN), after obtaining the opinion of the territorially competent Ethics Committee.

 

 

Newsletter 2020-3-2-e

 
 

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