"In the morning, I wake up and wait for the operations of assistance and care for my person to begin. The day passes while I am still and motionless, and my family and caregivers take care of my body. I have a thread of voice left; I don't know until when. I am losing the ability to speak; I can still move a hand a little, and even in this thing, I don't know until when. The suffering I feel has no end.
Last June, a touching letter was presented to the court in Trieste. A 55-year-old woman, seriously ill with multiple sclerosis and assisted by Judge Filomena Gallo, courageously asked the local health authority (ASL) of Trieste to verify her health conditions in order to access assisted suicide. However, after seven long months of waiting without any progress, the situation only changed when the court became urgently involved. On November 28, one year after the request, the woman found peace in her home. The news of her death was made public on December 12.
She was the fifth person in Italy, supported by the association "Luca Coscioni," who had the choice to leave this world from the comfort of her own home. The woman had anticipated the request for verification of her health condition for months, trying to take advantage of Constitutional Court ruling 242/19, which allows assisted suicide in certain circumstances. However, the verification by the ASL proved to be a complicated and lengthy process. To have her rights respected, the woman had to wait a long time, until only the intervention of the association “Luca Coscioni” and the court forced the ASL to carry out the verification of her condition. Only then was the woman able to make her choice to end her suffering without being forced to seek help in another country.
Although this is the fifth person in Italy to have chosen assisted suicide, her case is pretty unique and revolutionary. In fact, for the first time, she was guaranteed all the necessary elements for voluntary death: the medicament, the way it is administered, and the support of voluntary medical personnel.
In the context of assisted suicide in Italy, where it is legal without the presence of a specific law, the relevance of Constitutional Court ruling 242/19 emerges. This ruling abolished the crime of assisting suicide, provided that the person concerned has the cognitive capacity to understand the consequences of his or her request. In the case of an irreversible illness causing psychological and/or physical suffering associated with life-support treatment, it is possible to apply to the local health authority for verification of the requirements for voluntary death in Italy without the need to seek solutions elsewhere, where there are more liberal and permissive laws. However, despite this possibility offered by the ruling, significant issues arise that demonstrate the need for an actual law.
The ruling has the merit of widening the options for those who wish to make this choice, removing constraints. However, some issues arise, such as the fourth requirement for life-sustaining treatment, which could exclude many people, for example, cancer patients or those who do not want a mechanical ventilator. In addition, the question of time and procedures for verifying the requirements is a critical issue, especially for those facing serious or terminal illnesses. It is in this context that the association "Luca Coscioni" has launched the information campaign "Liberi Subito“ (Immediately Free), aimed at proposing regional laws that guarantee a pathway for requesting assisted suicide with timely, adequate, and defined checks. The aim is to address the importance of managing such requests more effectively, considering that, for some people, delays in timing could lead to the loss of motor and cognitive abilities.
In conclusion, the case of the woman with multiple sclerosis, whose wish to access assisted suicide was only realised thanks to the intervention of the association "Luca Coscioni" and the court, highlights the challenges and gaps in the Italian system regarding this delicate issue. Although the Constitutional Court ruling 242/19 represented a step forward in the recognition of the right of individual choice, significant questions still arise. The lack of a specific law, together with requirements that may exclude several people and the extended timeframe for verifying requirements, outline the need for a more thorough approach and legislative improvements. The proposal of the association "Luca Coscioni," through its "Liberi Subito" campaign, reflects the importance of having clear paths and certain timeframes for those who decide to take this path. After all, addressing these issues in a sensitive and compassionate way is crucial to ensuring that people with serious illnesses can make autonomous choices while respecting their rights and preserving their individual dignity.