The widow of an Italian man who became a protagonist in Italy's euthanasia debate turned herself into police on Friday after bringing another terminally ill man to Switzerland to die.
Mina Welby told reporters outside the Tuscan police station that Davide Trentini had administered a fatal IV drip himself on Thursday in Switzerland after doctors there determined he was a suitable candidate for assisted suicide. Trentini, 53, had suffered for nearly two decades from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurodegenerative disease better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and said the pain had become too unbearable to go on.
Euthanasia is illegal in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, and Trentini's announced trip to Switzerland had reignited the long-running debate that flared in 2006 when Welby's husband, Piergiorgio Welby, chose to die. A doctor removed his respirator after he became unable to eat, speak or breathe on his own due to muscular dystrophy.
The case drew international attention after the Catholic Church refused Welby a church funeral.
In the years since, other prominent cases have fueled Italy's right-to-die movement, including that of 38-year-old Eluana Englaro. Her father prevailed in court in 2009 to have her feeding tubes removed after she entered into a persistent vegetative state following a car accident 17 years earlier.
Mina Welby said Friday she hoped that Trentini's very public campaign to end his life would spur changes in Italy's law so that Italians no longer have to go abroad to end their lives via assisted suicide. Noting that his death fell during Holy Week, she called Trentini's 27 years of suffering a "cavalry" of pain and desperation.
"I hope that Italy will adopt a law in which all citizens can have access to a death that they freely choose, and that they believe is right and dignified," she said.
While Welby turned herself into police, there was no immediate word if prosecutors would proceed with a criminal investigation.