By Hilary White

ROME, December 23, 2008 ( – The European Court of Human Rights is refusing to hear the case brought by Italian pro-life advocates asking that Eluana Englaro be protected from euthanasia by dehydration. On Thursday, the Strasbourg Court announced that an attempt to appeal last month’s decision by the Italy’s highest appeals court lodged by a coalition of pro-life organisations was inadmissible because the groups had no direct legal link with Eluana.

Eluana Englaro is the young woman, frequently referred to as Italy’s Terri Schiavo, who has been in a state of diminished consciousness since a car accident in 1992. Her father has been petitioning the courts for a decade, asking that her food and hydration tube be removed and that she be dehydrated to death. In November, the Court of Cassation in Rome, highest appeals court of Italy, upheld a lower court ruling granting her father’s petition.

The Court of Human Rights ruled that the decision to allow the removal of Eluana’s food and water, regards “only the people directly involved”.

Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, the head of the Rome office of Human Life International told that the Human Rights Court, by restricting its decision mainly to procedural issues, is “masking” the court’s bias in favour of legalised euthanasia.

“Really it’s not a surprise because we knew the substantial position of the court, that they would not recognise the right to life of Eluana Englaro,” he said. “We know due to previous cases that they have a liberal position on euthanasia,” he said. “They do not hold in high esteem the life of the handicapped. They take a utilitarian position, that people like Eluana Englaro are ‘useless mouths’. Their life has no social value.”

Barreiro had previously warned that, given the clear biases of the Court, an attempt to bring an appeal there in favour of Eluana would fail. “The fact that the European Court of Human Rights used procedural grounds to reject the case at the beginning does not mean that we had any hopes,” he said.

“The solution now is an action by the Italian government that they adopt a decree law saving her life.” In the Italian legal system, so-called decree laws can be passed as an emergency measure and go into effect immediately and are subject to review by parliament.

With the announcement last week, that Eluana’s father, Beppino Englaro, had found a clinic willing to participate in her killing, controversy in Italy has continued. At that time, the health and welfare minister of the Italian government issued guidance saying that under Italian law, withdrawal of food and hydration from helpless disabled persons in the care of public health facilities is “illegal”.

Some legal experts have argued that this guideline does not apply to Eluana after the Cassation Court ruling. The Cassation Court’s deputy prosecutor general, Marcello Matera, said the health minister’s guideline was not relevant in the case of Eluana Englaro

“There is no doubt: the minister’s guideline cannot interfere with the sentence being carried out,” Matera said. He added that in the event that no clinic is prepared to carry out the sentence, it would be “theoretically possible” to ask for police intervention. “That kind of step would be decided by the Englaro family lawyers,” he told ANSA news service.

On Wednesday Milan Appeals Court judge Filippo Lamanna also said that the Cassation Court ruling was “definitive” and could not be legally challenged. Both Beppino Englaro and the clinic director have said they will not proceed until the case is legally settled.

Read related coverage:

Italian Government Must Act Fast to Define Food and Hydration as a Human Right to Save Eluana: Prominent Italian Lawyer

It is “Illegal” to Stop Food and Hydration of Vulnerable Patients: Top Italian Minister