Physician–Patient Relationship, Assisted Suicide and the Italian Constitutional Court

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 18 (4):671-681 (2021)
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In 2017, Italy passed a law that provides for a systematic discipline on informed consent, advance directives, and advance care planning. It ranges from decisions contextual to clinical necessity through the tool of consent/refusal to decisions anticipating future events through the tools of shared care planning and advance directives. Nothing is said in the law regarding the issue of physician assisted suicide. Following the DJ Fabo case, the Italian Constitutional Court declared the constitutional illegitimacy of article 580 of the criminal code in the part in which it does not exclude the punishment of those who facilitate the suicide when the decision has been freely and autonomously made by a person kept alive by life-support treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology, the source of physical or psychological suffering that he/she considers intolerable, but fully capable of making free and conscious decisions. Such conditions and methods of execution must be verified by a public structure of the national health service, after consulting the territorially competent ethics committee. This statement admits, within strict and regulated bounds, physician assisted suicide, so widening the range of end-of-life decisions for Italian patients. Future application and critical topics will be called into question by the Italian legislator.



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