Vatican objections over-ruled on coma woman

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A woman who has been in a coma for 17 years is to be allowed to die in hospital in Italy despite fierce objections from the Vatican.

Eluana Englaro, who is in a persistent vegetative state, was moved from a Catholic clinic to the hospital in Udine last night, said her family's lawyer.

A small crowd of anti-euthanasia activists gathered outside the clinic in Lecco, where she had been cared for, seeking to prevent the ambulance from leaving. Some were shouting "Eluana, Wake Up!"

Ms Englaro has been in a vegetative state since a car accident in 1992, when she was 20. Her father has led a protracted court battle to disconnect her feeding tube, insisting it was her wish.

An Italian court in the summer granted his request, setting off a political storm.

Her father then sought to have her removed from the Catholic clinic in Lecco to Udine, in the region where the family is from. But the government issued a decree last month telling state hospitals that they must guarantee care for people in vegetative states, leading at least one hospital in Udine to refuse to take Ms Englaro.

She was moved overnight to La Quiete, a private clinic.

Welfare Minister Maurizio Sacconi said the government was looking into the situation.

Italy does not allow euthanasia. Patients have a right to refuse treatment but there is no law that allows them to give advance directions on what treatment they wish to receive if they become unconscious.

The case has provoked the strong reaction of the Vatican, which is opposed to euthanasia. The pope said this weekend that euthanasia was a "false solution" to suffering.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the pope's health minister, said that removing Ms Englaro's feeding tube "is tantamount to an abominable assassination and the church will always say that out loud."