Italy’s Constitutional Court rejected a petition to hold a referendum on euthanasia and legally-assisted suicide. The issue will be debated by parliament.
The Constitutional Court said a proposed vote on the matter would not sufficiently protect “weak and vulnerable” people. Therefore, it would violate the constitution.
Last August, a petition for a referendum on the right to die collected more than 750,000 signatures. This is considerably above the threshold required to trigger a vote.
Anyone who assists with a suicide could face five to twelve years in prison.
Euthanasia already allowed under amended law
In 2019, the Italian Constitutional Court amended the law on assisted suicide. The change ruled that euthanasia would be allowed for terminally ill patients suffering from “unbearable” physical or psychological pain and kept alive by machines.
Such patients must, however, be capable of making “free and informed decisions”. Their decision must also be approved by local health authorities and an ethics board.
Anyone who does not fall into this category has no legal right to assisted suicide, the court said.
There have been several high-profile stories in recent years, however opposition to legally assisted suicide is strong in Italy. This is a country where the Catholic Church is highly influential.
“For us, it is bad news, but also for those who will have to suffer even more,” said Marco Cappato, one of the leading advocates of a referendum.
The issue will now be debated by Italy’s parliament.