Peter Popham: One sane voice cuts through the babble

There are affairs in which politics must halt on the threshold of people's homes
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The Independent Online

In a darkened hospital room in Italy lies a 38-year-old woman, her unseeing eyes open day and night, her encephalogram flat, feeding tubes in her nose pumping her with the nutriments that keep her alive.

The brain haemorrhage Eluana Englaro suffered during a car crash in 1992 caused a total degeneration of her brain functions. Her consciousness is dead: only her body, artificially nourished, is alive. In Britain, after 12 months the torment of her family would have been resolved by the replacement of nutrition with sedatives, and within a few days she would have begun to drift away.

In Italy, however, her body must live indefinitely, and in the name of that principle, as reported in our news pages, Italy has been plunged into a constitutional crisis, as Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, who has previously taken no interest in the affair, sides with the Catholic church in trying to force the doctors to keep her alive.

So it was with amazement that I turned to page five of yesterday's La Stampa and read the views of Italy's most illustrious Catholic politician on the affair.

Giulio Andreotti, who recently turned 90, was seven times a Christian Democrat prime minister and has for decades been the Church's most reliable friend in Italian public life. But now he is sounding a different note.

"This is a totally private affair," he said. "Deciding what is and what is not life is a question that each of us must confront on our own ... The calvary of Eluana must not become a political issue, or it will be culpably dehumanised. There are affairs in which politics must halt on the threshold of people's homes. We are dealing with a family which has been heavily tested by a tragedy, and no one can arrogate the right to decide about it imperiously."

Becks' Italian Job

Italy was ready to hate David Beckham. The footballer comes with so much baggage – and one is inevitably ill-disposed towards a multi-millionaire whose huge and well-stocked underpants gaze down from hoardings. But AC Milan, which has borrowed him from LA Galaxy in America, has discovered, as did Real Madrid, that Becks is a diamond geezer, polite, good-humoured, and still an asset on the pitch. They want him for keeps.

The stereotype does not fit

Amanda Knox was in court in Perugia on Saturday, and her ex-flatmate on the witness stand proved a grave disappointment: Amanda was not a junkie, not a witch, just a girl who liked sport, yoga, playing guitar. She cried after Meredith died. The world prefers Amanda guilty; prepare for her to vanish from view.