Italy’s Constitutional Court blocks euthanasia referendum

Over 750,000 signatories had asked for a vote, but the highest court says the life of the weak and vulnerable would not be protected. Evangelicals praise the decision.

Evangelical Focus

ROME · 18 FEBRUARY 2022 · 11:42 CET

A liberalised law for euthanasia will have to wait. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="">Miguel Ausejo</a>,
A liberalised law for euthanasia will have to wait. / Photo: Miguel Ausejo

There will not be a euthanasia referendum in Italy for now. The Constitutional Court has blocked the initiative that had raised at least 750,000 signatures, well over the 500,000 needed to force a referendum.

Euthanasia is already legal in four European countries, the last being the southern neighbouring country Spain. Recently, Austria also recently legalised assisted suicide.

The judges of the court in charge of protecting the Italian Constitution said the object of the popular vote would clash with the fundamental laws since it would not give “the minimum constitutionally necessary protection of human life, in general, and with particular reference to the weak and vulnerable”.

In 2019, the court opened the door in 2019 to assisted suicide, but with many safeguards and only in the cases of terminal patients suffering unbearable pain who were kept alive artificially and had the chance to freely request euthanasia.   

The government partners Social Democrats and the Movement 5 Stars were advocating for a more liberalised euthanasia law, and said the Supreme Court would only make the path to legalisation more difficult, but that they expect Italy to pass a law in the years ahead.


Evangelicals expect parliamentary process

Among those who praised the announcement of the Constitutional court were pro-life campaigners and also the Italian Evangelical Alliance (AEI).

“The Constitutional Court has thankfully dismissed the referendum on euthanasia on the ground that it would have introduced the ‘right to assisted suicide’ without a law carefully discipling it. It would have opened a breach into Italian legislation with unponderable consequences”, said Lucia Stelluti, Vice-President of the Italian Evangelical Alliance, speaking to Evangelical Focus.

The rejection of the referendum means that “supporters of euthanasia should seek to promote it via an ordinary parliamentary process”. Stelluti explains that “on the end-of-life issues the already approved bill on the living will (Disposizioni Anticipate di Trattamento, of 2018) provides for people to indicate the way they want to approach medical decisions at the end of life, even to the point of asking the therapeutic desistance”.

For the Italian Evangelical Alliance, “the referendum on euthanasia was an ideological weapon wanting to affirm the idol of total individual autonomy over against a responsible approach to life which does not shy away from the complexity of the issue but does so in keeping the ‘do not harm’ principle”.


Cannabis referendum blocked as well

The Constitutional Court also blocked another referendum on the legalisation of cannabis, saying such a law would collide with the obligation of the state to combat drug trafficking.

Malta was the first European country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis.

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