By Hilary White

ROME, February 10, 2009 ( – Today Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister, who was spearheading an effort to save the life of Eluana Englaro with emergency legislation when news of her death came, has indirectly accused Italian President Giorgio Napolitano of complicity with murder for the latter’s refusal to sign an emergency measure on Friday that might have saved her life.

“Eluana did not die a natural death; she was killed,” said Berlusconi. “Napolitano made a serious mistake.” Berlusconi described Eluana as “the only citizen to be condemned to death.”

At the time of her death, at about 8:10 pm last night, the Senate was debating a bill that would have outlawed the removal of food and hydration from incapacitated patients. After a pause for a minute’s silence, the Senate chamber erupted with shouts of “murderers, murderers,” aimed at leftist opposition members who had delayed the bill.

Maurizio Gasparri, a Member of the Italian Parliament for the Alleanza Nazionale party, said, “We need to understand what happened in La Quieta clinic, which we may fairly call the ‘Death clinic.’ This is a moment of pity and tragedy, but it was clearly euthanasia.”

Eluana Englaro, 38, reportedly died alone in her hospital room in Udine, four days after the withdrawal of food and water. While an autopsy is still pending, the clinic announced that the cause of death was cardiac arrest brought on by renal failure. Others, however, are asking why a woman who had been declared “healthy” by doctors just days before, died after only a few days of dehydration. Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman at the centre of a similar controversy in 2005, died 13 days after the suspension of food and fluids.

“Something very strange has happened,” said Gianluigi Gigli, a neurologist at Udine University and head of the group For Eluana. Dr. Gigli said he was “perplexed” by the fact that she had died after only four days.

Carlo Moreschi, the pathologist in charge of the autopsy in Udine, said, “We will complete the autopsy in order not to leave any doubt. And then it will take three, four hours. The first results will be sent immediately to the Prosecutor of the Republic.”

Although direct euthanasia is illegal in Italy, the law allows for the withdrawal of medical treatment at a patient’s request. The administration of food and fluids is not defined in law as being “treatment.”

Beppino Englaro, Eluana’s father, who successfully sought permission in the courts to have her food and water withdrawn, told media that he wanted only to be left alone.

A Vatican spokesman responded to the news of Eluana’s death saying it “can only leave a shadow of sadness given the circumstances that surround it.”

“But physical death never has the last word for Christians. Even in Eluana’s name, therefore, we will continue to search for the most effective ways to serve life,” Fr. Federico Lombardi said. “We hope that her case, in the wake of so much discussion, becomes a motive for us all to responsibly search for better ways to care for the weakest people in society, with full respect for the right to life.”

An editorial in Il Giornale, titled, “Congratulations Napolitano,” blasted the president, a former leader of the Italian Communist party, and his supporters on the left for helping those who wanted to kill Eluana, and noted that calls have started for his resignation. President Napolitano and those who blocked the passage of the decree law that could have saved her life, “preferred the culture of death to the value of life,” said the editorial.