By Hilary White

ROME, February 13, 2009 ( – Italian legislators are said to be quietly dropping a proposed measure that would have prohibited the withdrawal of food and hydration from comatose patients after the death of Eluana Englaro.

While Eluana herself was being buried in a Catholic ceremony in her native village of Lecco, the Italian government turned its attention to pending legislation on “living wills” that many fear will usher in a legal situation that will make cases such as hers more common. Direct euthanasia remains illegal in Italy, but the removal of food and hydration remains a contested issue, and no direct action was taken in the case of Eluana to stop her killing.

Although under Italian law a patient, or a patient’s guardian, can refuse treatment, it remains to be seen if food and hydration will be regarded as medical treatment under the new law, which is heavily favored by the left.

Italian novelist Umberto Eco, in an article published in the left-leaning La Repubblica daily supporting the euthanasia push, wrote, “Now that this young woman is dead, we can talk about these problems without fear of behaving like a stalking jackal around a suffering body.”

Mina Welby, a euthanasia campaigner, said today that the living wills legislation is necessary to avoid a repeat of the Eluana Englaro situation. Welby, a spokesman for the far-left Luca Coscioni Association, a group that campaigns for euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, announced an all-out campaign for the living wills law, starting with a Resolution to be presented to the Rome municipal government.

“We turn to individuals, associations, movements: we will collect signatures in the Catholic world, parties, Universities and among foreigners: this is a battle of civilisation and everybody is included,” she said.

“If approved, this resolution will have immediate effect, allowing citizens to make their choices regarding health treatment public. What has happened to Eluana, for whom it took 17 years of appealing to have her will recognised by the courts, will not happen again,” said Mario Staderini, of the extreme left Italian Radical Party.

Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, a former leader of Italy’s now-defunct Communist party, said during the crisis over Eluana that the solution to these kinds of cases is to institute the living wills legislation. Napolitano was accused by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of having contributed to Eluana’s death by his refusal to endorse an emergency “decree law” last Friday that would have halted the dehydration process.

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