Will Parliament heed the Constitutional Court's instruction?


On 30 January 2019, the Italian Parliament started the debate on a popular initiative on the liberalisation of euthanasia submitted in September 2013. The fact that the initiative has now been put on the agenda after more than five years is due to the Italian Constitutional Court, which, in October 2018, instructed Parliament to revise the existing legal framework for the self-determined end of life (Article 580 of the Criminal Code) by 24 September 2019. The popular initiative had so far been ignored by the Italian legislative body.

In connection with a criminal trial opened in November 2017 against Marco Cappato, Secretary of the Associazione Luca Coscioni, in Milan, the Italian Constitutional Court held in October 2018 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 subsequently instructed the Italian Parliament to revise the existing legal provisions accordingly.

Under current Italian law, knowingly contributing to someone putting an end to his or her own life is a punishable crime. The Constitutional Court 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.

Marco Cappato had been charged with encouraging and assisting suicide after denouncing himself to the police in Milan. 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 (for more details, see our article in the November 2018 newsletter). The court acquitted him 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.

A second trial against Marco Cappato, and Mina Welby*, has been stalled. 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 court in Massa decided to postpone its judgment until it is clear what changes the Italian parliament will make to the current legislation and how it affects the case.

*Mina Welby is 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


More information on the liberalisation of assisted dying in Italy and the trial against Marco Cappato is available on the website of the Associazione Luca Coscioni:



Newsletter 2019-1-2-e


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