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Vatican decries ruling by court

The decision to allow removal of a woman's feeding tube has legalized euthanasia, the church says.

November 16, 2008|Frances D'emilio | D'Emilio writes for the Associated Press.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican said Friday that Italy's highest court had essentially legalized euthanasia by giving permission for a comatose woman's feeding tube to be disconnected by her father.

The court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling allowing the man to have the tube removed from his daughter, who has been in a vegetative state for 16 years. The woman was 20 when she became comatose after an auto accident.

Relatives and friends of the woman said that not long before the accident, the young woman had visited a comatose friend in a hospital and expressed her will never to be kept alive in such a way.

"The ruling about Eluana Englaro -- which signifies, as authoritative people have said -- the de facto introduction of euthanasia into Italy -- constitutes a defeat for all, not just for the Catholic world," the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said.

The newspaper said that in debates on "life-and-death issues, the church, above all in Italy, still exercises a certain influence."

It cited the Roman Catholic Church's successful campaign for an Italian law cracking down on artificial procreation, banning embryo freezing and sperm and egg donations.

But in a front-page commentary, L'Osservatore Romano expressed dismay that "this time, however, it seems that the voice of Catholic thought was little heeded."

"The Catholic tradition sheds certain and clear light for decisions in these complicated cases -- the value of human life from conception to natural death, whatever the condition in which it is lived," the newspaper said.

The church forbids euthanasia. Italy's constitution gives patients the right to refuse treatment. But there is no law recognizing living wills, although some lawmakers have been lobbying for such a measure.

Doctors have called Englaro's condition irreversible.

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