By Matthew Cullinan Hofman

ROME, February 9, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Eluana Englaro, Italy’s "Terri Schiavo," has died only four days after doctors began a "gradual" reduction in her food and water intake with the intent to cause her death.

The announcement was made by Italy’s Health Minister on the floor of the Italian Senate, which was debating a bill that would have saved Englaro’s life.

Although no cause of death has been announced, earlier news reports indicated that Englaro’s intake of nutrients was being replaced with a heavy dose of sedatives.  Palliative medication in high doses can cause a patient to die prematurely.

The news follows public statements by Englaro’s physician that she has enjoyed almost perfect physical health during the 16 years following her car accident in 1992, which left her bedridden and in a minimal state of consciousness.  She was 38 years old.

Although euthanasia is illegal in Italy and Englaro’s body functions were not dependent on machines, her father received a decision from Italy’s final appeals court in 2008 allowing him to remove hydration and nutrition in order to kill her. The ruling was based on the notion that food and water constitute “medical treatment,” which can be withheld at the patient’s discretion.

Englaro’s father claims that his daughter would not have wanted to live as a "vegetable."

The decision to allow Englaro’s dehydration death was met with protests throughout Italy during the weekend, and over the past few weeks.  The Italian government under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attempted to pass emergency legislation through the Italian Parliament to save Englaro’s life after an earlier attempt was blocked by the country’s president, a former communist.  However, the legislation was still in process when Englaro’s death was announced.

Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schindler, commented to LifeSiteNews.com about Eluana’s death saying, "I’m very sad to hear about Eluana. Our family grieves for her."  He added that he was "surprised at how quickly she has passed away."

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International denounced Englaro’s killing and expressed puzzlement at her quick death.

"To intentionally dehydrate a person to death dehumanizes them because it denies them the basic care due to a human person. We turn them into an object," he told LifeSiteNews. "Everybody deserves basic care, which includes food, fluid, and warmth as long as it is necessary to sustain life. This is not extraordinary treatment."

"We ask the question, how did she actually die? She wouldn’t have died in just a few days of dehydration," he added.