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First step Italian law on patient’s right to refuse treatment

Last week, a law was adopted by the Italian Chamber of Deputies on patient right to refuse treatment and informed consent. 326 deputies voted in favour, 37 against in the first reading. The Senate still has to approve before it gets into force. 


The law will provide patients who are at the end of their lives the possibility to refuse treatment, a request that has to be respected by the treating physician. Physician can still give palliative care, but are not allowed to set up life-sustaining treatments such as artificial nutrition and hydration if they are requested not to. It also is prohibited to perform heavy interventions when the patient is at his end of life and refuses further treatment.


The law will apply to all physicians. Also Catholic clinics have to respect their patients refusal of treatment. Some Catholic parliamentarians expressed their concerns on the ‘controversial’ law, stating that ‘it allows patients to die from hunger and thirst’. The law is a step towards the respect of the will of patients and the possibility of dying in a humane way.


The Italian Right-to-Die Society Luca Conscioni Association states they are excited for the new law, but also addresses some critical points. In the law there are some references to the professional ethics of physicians and to psychological treatment for patients who refuse treatment. They also state that some of the  bureaucratic measures regarding the advance directives could cause problems in practice. 


The Association organises meetings and events throughout Italy in May.