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NEWS “Assisted suicide: here is why I voted against”

di segniBy Pagine Ebraiche staff

“I would like forit to become a useful instrument, extensively supported by documents, which will help legislators make considered decisions. We decided to shed some light on this topic, listing its pros and cons”, claimed lawyer Lorenzo D’Avack, President of the National Committee for Bioethics, summarising the intense discussion which brought forward three different opinions on the legalisation of assisted suicide within the Committee.

By consulting the debate minutes on the Committee website, it becomes clear that the issue has been dealt with “knowing that it would give rise to opposing views both within the Committee and the society”. Among those against assisted suicide was Rav Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome Jewish Community and vice-president of the Committee.

“It should be clear – he told Pagine Ebraiche – that assisted suicide does not mean active euthanasia, i.e. a person put an end to another person’s life, but a situation in which a free individual consciously decides to end their own existence and turns to a healthcare professional in order to obtain a specific drug, which the patient will administer themselves.”

“We decided to express our opinion on this delicate topic, Rav Di Segni continued, following a last year’s ruling of the Italian Constitutional Court, which was called upon to assess the constitutionality of the rule of the Italian Civil Code prohibiting assisted suicide.

“The Court, he pointed out, did not rule but gave the Parliament one year’s time to decide whether they wanted to amend the current ban on assisted suicide.” While waiting for a new law or else for the Court’s ruling, the Committee, which is an advisory body for the Government and the institutions, has delivered its opinion “where it examined the implications of the issue and the different standpoints on it” in order to provide the Parliament with accurate data.

The opinion has been adopted, “because it is highly informative and pluralistic”, and, in spite of all the different standpoints, an agreement was reached on some final recommendations which were unanimously welcomed. Nevertheless, all the various opinions presented in the document remain such and, Rav Di Segni clarified, have been summarised into three: A (against), B (in favour) and C (in favour with reservation). The most popular opinion has been B, with 13 votes, then A with 11 and C with 2.

In observance with the laws of Halakhah, Di Segni chose A. “Some members of the Committee are against the legalisation, both ethical and legal, of assisted suicide, and they all believe that the defence of human life must be asserted as a fundamental principle of bioethics, regardless of its philosophical and religious basis. Moreover, they believe that doctors have the absolute duty to fully respect patients’ lives and that “assisting death” is unacceptable, since it goes against the philosophy of “curing and taking care of” people.

Translated by Mattia Stefani and revised by Sara Facelli, both students at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.