The case of Eluana Englaro, who died suddenly on February 10, just as the country's religious and political leaders were fighting for emergency legislation that would decide her fate continues to divide the country.
Although Englaro passed away just three days after her food and water were stopped, her story has left a mark on the country. Fueled by religious and ethical issues, the right-to-die case created a rift between institutional powers. Premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government was about to pass emergency legislation to force doctors to continue Englaro's artificial nutrition. Such a decree, however, would violate the fundamental rights stated in the Italian constitution, as stated by Italy's supreme court in November 2008. The high court allowed the removal of the feeding tube based on Englaro's ‘verbal' wishes expressed before the accident that left her in a permanent vegetative state.
Politicians and religious leaders are now debating what kind of law is needed to avoid this situation in the future. The constitutional validity of a ‘living will', through which individuals can specify their wishes should they be in a persistent vegetative state or similarly incapacitated, is currently under discussion.