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Italian Constitutional Court now officially rules that aid in suicide is, under certain conditions, not punishable

Friday, November 22, 2019

In a judgment of 22 November, the Constitutional Court of Italy has established that, in certain conditions, a patient subjected to unbearable suffering can be helped to die, and that this aid must be provided by the National Health System.


<--break->The sentence declares the unconstitutionality of article 580 of the Penal Code for the part in which it punishes the facilitation of a person's suicide, freely and independently determined to put an end to one's life, which "is kept alive by life support treatments and affected by one irreversible pathology, source of physical or psychological suffering that she deems intolerable, but fully capable of making free decisions and aware”. Furthermore, these conditions must be “verified by a public structure of the national health service, subject to the opinion of the territorially competent ethics committee".

Immediately effective
The sentence is immediately effective from the day following its publication in the Official Gazette. This means that, from that moment, art. 580 of the Penal Code, for the part that punishes the conduct of aid to the suicide the way it is identified by the Court, can no longer be applied. The sentence does not create any regulatory or non-legislative vacuum because it requires no regulatory intervention by the political powers to be followed.

End of a long process
This acceptance sentence leads to completion of the judgment of constitutional legitimacy of art. 580 of the Criminal Code. This process was initiated with the order of the Milan Court of Assizes (14 February 2017), that charged Marco Cappato for aiding in the suicide of Fabiano Antoniani, and was followed by order 207 of 2018 (September 23, 2019). In September this year, the Court came out with a press release that predicted this ruling. 

On the website of Luca Coscioni you can read more about this case.
For instance a paper about this case (in Italian). We made a translation of this paper to English.  

Official Court publications

16 November 2018
- Order 207/2018 (Italian / English)
Press release: Punishability of suicide help: the discipline to the legislator of limits. (Italian / English)

25 September 2019
- Press release: Waiting for the parliament, consultation is pronounced on end of life (Italian / English)

22 November 2019
- Sentence 242/2019 (Italian / English)
- Press release: End of life: When suicide help is not punishable (Italian / English


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