By Hilary White

ROME, March 2, 2009 ( – Although no charges have been laid, the local prosecutor’s office in Udine has launched an investigation for “voluntary homicide” in the case of Eluana Englaro’s death.

Altogether, 14 persons have been accused of aggravated voluntary homicide, including anesthetist Dr. Amato De Monte and 12 volunteer nurses of the group “Per Eluana,” a pro-euthanasia organisation who “assisted” at the “La Quieta” clinic in Udine where Eluana died. Also amongst the accused is Beppino Englaro, Eluana’s father, whose ten year battle through the courts to have his daughter’s food and hydration removed resulted in her death on February 9.

Prosecutor Antonio Biancardi told media on Saturday that the investigation was legally required after his office received over 50 official requests from a pro-life group.

In addition, investigations are being opened by the prosecutor of Bologna into the decision by the judges of the appeals court of Milan, which allowed Eluana’s hydration to be removed.

Active euthanasia is illegal in Italy and is regarded under the law as homicide, but legislators are under pressure from “right to die” pro-euthanasia organizations, who have launched an all-out campaign for legalization. Under Italian law, a patient, or his legal guardian, has the right to refuse medical treatment, but it remains an open question whether food and hydration, received through a feeding tube, is included.

A draft law is moving in the Senate on “living wills,” one of the provisions of which is that food and hydration are always mandatory and cannot be refused. Pro-life groups regard this bill as a key battleground in the upcoming fight over legalizing euthanasia. There is currently a majority in both chambers of Parliament in favor of keeping this provision.

The Udine investigation was brought about by the pro-life organization Verita e Vita (“Truth and Life”) who have been active in the case. A spokesman for the group said, “It would have been really tragic if in our country, faced with an event that has shocked and disturbed the public, no one had felt the need to ask the judiciary to conduct a serious and thorough investigation surrounding this affair.”

Mario Palmaro said, “Life is good, it cannot be disposed of, and you cannot dispose of it even for those who request it.

“In addition, in this case we support – and we wrote in the complaint – that Eluana Englaro had not asked to die, or at least there is no evidence of such a request that can be used in criminal proceedings. That’s why we talk about murder: it was not the will of the victim to cause the actions of those who did the killing.”

Read related coverage:

Italian Left Launches “Living Wills” Euthanasia Campaign in the Wake of Eluana Englaro Crisis