ROME — For over a year, media reports kept Italians informed about the ordeal of a 44-year-old man known only as “Mario” as he tried to end his life through assisted suicide. Paralyzed by a road accident 12 years ago, “Mario” faced a series of legal, bureaucratic and financial hurdles in his pursuit of death.
On Thursday, ‘Mario’, first identified by his real name, Federico Carboni, took his own life and became Italy’s first legal aider for suicide, at his home in the central Italian port city of Senigallia.
Mr. Carboni, an unmarried truck driver, was surrounded by his family, friends and people who had helped him achieve his goal, including officials from the Luca Coscioni Association, a right to die advocacy group that assisted Mr. Carboni during the past 18 months and announced his death.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Filomena Gallo, the association’s national secretary, read from a letter written by Mr. Carboni last month.
“I can’t deny that I regret having said goodbye to life, I would be false and lying if I said anything else because life is wonderful and we only have one,” the letter reads. . “But unfortunately that’s how it went.”
Mr Carboni fought on even as his health deteriorated, Ms Gallo said. “Federico wanted to exercise his right to free choice in Italy, and he was aware that his resistance would be a right, a freedom, exercised for everyone,” she said.
Mr Carboni’s case highlights a series of contradictions and limitations of Italian law that activists for the right to die have disputed for decades in a country that is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, which exerts significant influence on bioethics .
An Italian court decision has allowed assisted suicide in Italy under certain limited circumstances, but there is no legislation enshrining the practice, which has led to delays for Mr Carboni.
If they are able to do so, terminally ill Italians can travel to Switzerland to end their lives there, but it is a costly and in most cases physically demanding journey.
Marco Cappato, the treasurer of the Coscioni association, said that when Mr. Carboni first contacted him two years ago, he intended to go to Switzerland to end his life. Instead, he decided to stay in Italy. “These two years of stubbornness and determination” allowed Mr. Carboni could be proud to be “the first person in Italy to receive medical attention for a voluntary death,” said Mr. cappato.
In 2017, the Italian parliament passed a law giving adults the right to decide about their end-of-life medical care, including the conditions under which they can refuse life-saving and life-prolonging treatments, including artificial nutrition, hydration and ventilation.
In a landmark ruling in 2019, Italy’s Constitutional Court said assisted suicide cannot be considered a crime as long as certain conditions are met.
The court had been asked to rule on the charges against Mr Cappato, who in 2017 helped a blind and quadriplegic man with life support go to a Swiss clinic that offers assisted suicide. Mr Cappato was charged in a Milan court with complicity in suicide, which carries a prison term of up to 12 years.
The Constitutional Court ruled that in some cases helping someone could not be considered a crime as long as the person seeking help fulfilled four conditions: he had to be fully mentally capable and suffering from an incurable disease that caused serious and intolerable physical or psychological problems. They also had to be kept alive by life-prolonging treatments.
The man that Mr. Cappato helped, Fabiano Antoniani, known as DJ Fabo, fulfilled the conditions so that Mr. Cappato could not be charged with a crime.
The court urged the Italian parliament to pass legislation incorporating these principles, and lawmakers are debating it, but until then, the court’s ruling is legally binding.
Even with that precedent, Mr. Carboni to access assisted suicide from a physician. He was forced to repeatedly challenge health officials where he lived in court so that he could be visited by doctors and members of the regional ethics committee who could verify the state of his health and mind and eventually sign his plan, which complied. to the decision of the Constitutional Court.
Mr Carboni’s case reflects a legislative gap in Italy when it comes to such issues.
Earlier this week, Fabio Ridolfi, a 46-year-old who had been paralyzed for 18 years, died in palliative care after his request for assisted suicide dragged on. After months of lobbying — and even releasing a heartbreaking video last month asking the state to help him die — he refused further treatment. He passed away on Monday.
The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, which it has called “intrinsically bad” acts “in any situation or circumstance.” Pope Francis has reiterated this position on numerous occasions, although he is more nuanced when it comes to aggressive medical treatment.
Even the National Committee on Bioethics, which informs the government and the medical community on various issues, could not come to a consensus a few years ago when it examined the issue.
A law that would allow some assisted suicide, in line with the Constitutional Court ruling, was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year (with just over half of the House’s 630 MPs voting), and is now being discussed in the House of Representatives. Senate.
Mr Cappato said the proposed law in its current form discriminated against terminally ill patients who did not meet all four criteria for assisted suicide, such as cancer patients who were not alive. “In the Netherlands, more than 60 percent of euthanasia cases are terminally ill cancer patients who are not attached to machines,” he said. “Excluding such cases from assisted suicide means that you are discriminating against one in three people.”
Critics of the proposed law say it could force terminally ill patients to undergo tracheotomies or other procedures just to access assisted suicide.
In addition, the bill does not set deadlines for decisions. “Obviously a terminal patient doesn’t always have the time to wait,” said Mr. Cappato in an interview earlier this month.
With the national elections less than a year away, some pushing for the bill say senators could try to block its passage, forcing the next parliament to start all over again.
Annamaria Parente, the chair of the Senate committee that discusses the bill, said she had requested rapid approval. “It’s a duty to move forward,” she said.
Some lawmakers criticized Mr Carboni’s choice. Mario Adinolfi, national chairman of the People of the Family party, warned of “destructive and deadly madness” that would lead to “slaughtering those who cannot be cured,” the ANSA news agency reported.
In his suicide note, Mr. Carboni told his family and friends not to be sad. With the Coscioni association “we have defended ourselves by attacking, and we have attacked by defending ourselves, we have created a judicial milestone and a piece of history in our country and I am proud and honored to have stood by your side he wrote. †
Don’t cry, he added. “Now I’m finally free to fly wherever I want.”