The Vatican and the Italian Bishops’ Conference have warned of the “spread of the culture of death” after Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled that helping someone to die is not always a crime.

Driving the news

The Court had been asked to rule on the case of DJ Fabiano Antoniani – or DJ Fabo – who ended his life at a Swiss euthanasia clinic in 2017 after a serious car crash in 2014 left him blind and tetraplegic.

The question before the judges was whether charges should be laid against Marco Cappato, a “right to die” campaigner who accompanied Antoniani to Switzerland.

Cappato was facing up to 12 years’ prison for “instigating or assisting suicide”.

But after the ruling, he will likely now be acquitted.

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Go deeper

In its ruling Wednesday, the Constitutional Court said assisted suicide should be permitted by law in case in which a patient’s irreversible condition causes “physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable”.

But the judges also said the patient must still be “capable of making free and conscious decisions” about their fate.

For the record

Vatican cardinal Angelo Becciu and the Italian Bishops’ Conference called the ruling a loss for the pro-life cause.

“We’re running the risk of spreading the culture of death when, instead, we should be doing everything possible to spread a mentality that loves life and tries to defend life to the end”, said Becciu.

The Italian Bishops had earlier said that they had been left “dismayed” and “concerned” by the ruling.

The Bishops criticised the “utilitarian vision” of life the Constitutional Court had adopted.

They said their “greatest concern” was “the implicit cultural impulse that can lead people who suffer to believe that asking for an end to their existence is a decision for dignity”.

The Italian prelates also recalled words Pope Francis pronounced September 20, in an audience with the Italian National Federation of Doctors and Dental Surgeons.

“We can and must reject the temptation – also induced by legislative changes – to use medicine to support a possible willingness to die of the patient, providing assistance to suicide or directly causing death by euthanasia”, Francis said on that occasion.

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What’s next

Italy’s parliament is now expect to debate the Court’s decision.

But the Italian Bishops expressed their hope that that legislative discussion “recognises to the maximum possible degree” the same values of “closeness to and accompaniment of all the sick” that the Church makes its own.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference also called on politicians to respect and protect health-care workers’ freedom of conscience.

According to Giuseppe Battimelli, vice-president of the Italian Catholic Medical Association (AMCI), more than 4,000 Italian doctors are prepared to stand up for their faith and conscience rights and refuse to take part in assisted suicides.

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