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DJ’s assisted suicide stirs up Italy euthanasia debate

Italian newspaper front pages featuring DJ Fabo
Image caption “I’m leaving a hell of pain”, DJ Fabo said in a final message

Much loved Italian disc jockey, DJ Fabo, passed away on Monday after choosing assisted dying in Switzerland. He saw it as the only option after becoming severely disabled after a road accident.

His death at a clinic in Zurich has reignited the debate in Italy about laws on assisted dying, with moving tributes on front pages and in social media.

DJ Fabo – Fabiano Antoniani – was left blind and tetraplegic after a car crash in 2014.

Antoniani had appealed to President Sergio Mattarella for the right to die and, shortly before his death, had criticised Italy for failing to pass laws on end-of-life issues.

“Finally I am in Switzerland and, unfortunately, I got here on my own and not with the help of my country,” DJ Fabo said in an audio message posted on social media shortly before his death.

Image copyright Rai 24
Image caption Rai 24 website published audio of DJ Fabo’s “last message”

Marco Cappato, an ex-MEP and pro-euthanasia campaigner who accompanied the DJ on his journey, wrote on Twitter: “Fabo died at 1140. He decided to pass away, respecting the rules of a country which is not his own.”

Image copyright @marcocappato

Mr Cappato could face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty of helping DJ Fabo to take his life. Hundreds of messages of support have been left on his Twitter updates.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Marco Cappato is a pro-euthanasia campaigner

“Italians forced to go abroad not only to live with dignity, but also to die with dignity #DjFabo #FaboLibero”, reads one Italian Twitter comment retweeted several hundred times.

Image copyright @pamelaferrara

Assisted suicide is not illegal in Switzerland and can be facilitated by people who are not doctors.

Hundreds of people have travelled to Zurich to end their lives at Dignitas, an organisation set up in 1998 to help people with terminal illness. They are provided with a lethal dose of barbiturates which they have to take themselves.

‘Forgive us’

Euthanasia is illegal in Italy, but the law upholds a patient’s right to refuse care and the potential contradiction has resulted in several high-profile cases which have divided Italians.

The debate has been especially passionate in a country where the Roman Catholic Church, which is deeply opposed to euthanasia, still holds great sway. The Church sees it as the morally unacceptable killing of a person – a violation of the law of God.

In 2006, Piergiorgio Welby, a terminally-ill man with a severe form of muscular dystrophy, died after a protracted legal dispute during which he described his life as torture.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Piergiorgio Welby died in 2006

After a number of other high-profile cases in recent years, legislators agreed to expedite work on a draft law to clarify end-of-life issues.

After three postponements, the lower house of parliament is due to debate the latest draft on 6 March, according to La Stampa newspaper website.

In a commentary on the Repubblica website, Italian journalist and social commentator Roberto Saviano asked DJ Fabo to “forgive us for what we haven’t done”.

“We heard you ask for a dignified death. There is no possible justification for the silence which you got in reply,” Mr Saviano wrote.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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