By Hilary White
(Note: shortly after this story was published  it was reported that Eluana had died suddenly)

ROME, February 9, 2009 ( – While food and hydration are being withdrawn “gradually” from Eluana Englaro in a nursing facility in Udine, Italy’s legislators continue to scramble for ways to block her killing. A bill put forward on Saturday by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to save Eluana’s life at the eleventh hour has reached the Senate and hope remains that it can be implemented within a few days. On Friday, President Giorgio Napolitano had blocked an emergency measure that would have made the removal of food and hydration from helpless patients illegal.

Franca Alessio, a lawyer for Beppino Englaro, remained defiant, however, saying that even if Prime Minister Berlusconi’s law is passed it will not create an obligation for doctors to stop the dehydration. “This ban is not retroactive, and cannot compel Eluana’s assisting doctors to resume feeding,” he said.

Meanwhile, members of the pro-euthanasia movement are praising the fact that the issue is being discussed in Parliament, calling it a victory for their cause, even if the laws being discussed are not favorable to their cause. Silvio Viale, a doctor and manager of the Luca Coscioni and Exit-Italia, a member of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, said the bill is “still a step forward, and a victory for Eluana, regardless of whether it is a bad or prohibitionist law, because it breaks the taboo and the hypocrisy” of the “right to life” movement.

The bill “opens the way for future discussions … for future changes to the law” in favor of legalizing euthanasia, he said.

Eluana Englaro, who is often called the “Terri Schiavo of Italy,” has been in a state of diminished consciousness since a car accident in 1992. Since then, her father, Beppino Englaro, has fought through the courts to have her food and water removed so that she can be killed by dehydration.

In November, the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appeals court, upheld an earlier ruling by a Milan court that granted his request. Early last week, Beppino Englaro had his daughter removed from the care of the Misericordine sisters in Lecco, who had refused to participate in her killing, to a private facility in Udine where the starvation and dehydration “protocol” was put into effect starting Friday. As long as the Court of Cassation ruling stands and the bills intended to save her life continue to be delayed, the dehydration protocol continues.

The outcry against the slow killing of Eluana Englaro is spreading throughout Italy. Giuseppe Del Barone, former president of the National Federation of the Order of Doctors and current president of the Union of Italian doctors, denounced the euthanasia killing as “murder.” He said that the suspension of hydration and nutrition to Eluana Englaro is “an unprecedented act of a cruelty.”

This weekend, the political group, Il Popolo Della Vita, held a rally protesting the attempted killing of Eluana at Castel Sant Angelo, on the banks of the Tiber, steps away from the Palazzo Di Giustizia (Palace of Justice), where the Court of Cassation handed down the ruling in November. On Monday morning, Rome’s commuters were greeted with posters from the organization, reading, “Eluana, do not be afraid, Rome does not desert you.”

In today’s edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Lucetta Scaraffia, a professor of modern history at the La Sapienza University in Rome writes that with the removal of Eluana to the La Quieta clinic in Udine, the reality of what is being done has hit home for many in Italy.

“Even those who had not wanted to inquire seriously, who thought it was simply a case of aggressive treatment, begin to have doubts. The fact that this woman is alive and not kept alive by machines, that she is not a dying patient, finally jumps in the eyes of all.”

It is no longer, he wrote, just the “words of one doctor against another,” but the reality of what is happening that speaks.

“Deprived of the protection of the law that considers the human being even in conditions of persistent vegetative state … Eluana is conducted to a death that is much closer to euthanasia than a refusal of ‘extraordinary measures’.”