Italian official intervenes in case of woman in vegetative state

ROME (CNS) — An Italian government official intervened to stop a hospital from withholding nutrition and hydration from a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 16 years. The Dec. 16 decree by Maurizio Sacconi, Italy’s welfare minister, temporarily blocked Eluana Englaro’s physician and family from carrying out an Italian supreme court decision to let her die. As preparations were being finalized to transfer Englaro to a clinic that agreed to look after her as she died, Sacconi issued his decree informing hospitals throughout the country that withholding nutrition and hydration from a patient in a persistent vegetative state would be an illegal act of discrimination against a profoundly disabled person. Officials of the Citta di Udine clinic, which had agreed to accept Englaro as a patient and had formed an all-volunteer team of employees to care for her, suspended the transfer saying they had to study Sacconi’s decree and determine whether they were obliged to obey it or if they could follow the supreme court’s ruling. Englaro, 37, was injured in a car accident in 1992.

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