Doctor Admits Illegally Assisting In Man's Suicide
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 22, 2006
ROME, ITALY--The assisted suicide of a man with muscular dystrophy has touched off renewed debate over the practice, which is illegal in Italy.
Sixty-year-old Piergiorgio Welby died late Wednesday after Dr. Mario Riccio, an anesthetist, gave him an injection consisting of 'a cocktail of sedatives', and then removed the respirator that had kept him alive for nearly ten years.
Welby's situation was very familiar to Italians. He wrote a book entitled "Let Me Die", and made numerous television appearances in a crusade to change Italy's laws, which carry a sentence of up to 15 years for helping a person commit suicide.
Riccio told Reuters news service that he knew the risk of prosecution when he decided to assist Welby in killing himself.
"If I am incriminated, I hope to be able to then demonstrate my reasoning," he said.
By Friday, prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into Welby's death.
Catholic Church officials and many politicians were quick to condemn Riccio's actions, while supporters of legalizing assisted suicide called him a hero.
Many disability rights groups around the world have condemned efforts to make assisted suicide legal, pointing out that many who have died from the practice in countries where it is legal were not in the end stages of terminal illness, but had physical or mental disabilities and were in crises. Some have argued that such laws put people with disabilities at greater risk of euthanasia or 'mercy killing', because of the low value society already places on their lives.
"Italy doctor unplugged euthanasia man's respirator" (Reuters via Swiss Broadcasting Corporation)
"Rome prosecutors have opened case on the death of Italian who asked to die" (Associated Press via CBC News)