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MILAN, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - Italian prosecutors are ruling that Marco Cappato, an assisted suicide activist, did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights when he helped Fabiano Antoniani commit suicide in Switzerland in February.
Antoniani became a quadriplegic after a car accident in 2014 and had been seeking, since then, to be able to commit suicide. Cappato, a member of the Radical Party and an outspoken right-to-die activist, drove Antoniani to Switzerland in February where he self-administered a lethal dose of medication.
Twenty-four hours later, Cappato went to a police station in Milan, claiming he broke the law and turned himself in. Some critics suggest he was merely doing it to bring attention to his cause and that authorities had no interest in charging him with a crime.
Cappato told members of the press outside the police station, "If there will be an opportunity to defend before a judge what I've done, I can do it in the name of constitutional principles of freedom and fundamental responsibilities that are stronger than a penal code written in the Fascist era."
In Italian law, once a person is placed under investigation by authorities or in this case, turns himself in for a crime, prosecutors must examine the accusations to determine if charges are to be filed. Prosecutors concluded on May 2 that he did not violate Antoniani's "right to life," claiming assisted suicide doesn't violate the law "in the case of terminal illness or serious suffering, unbearable for the patient."
A judge must still make a final determination, and Cappato can still be charged according to article 580 of the Italian criminal code which directs, "Anyone who causes others to suicide or reinforces the others about suicide or in any way facilitates the execution, shall be punished, whether suicide occurs, by imprisonment from five to twelve years."
Switzerland, however, is not part of the European Union and assisted suicide is legal there. The situation is serving as a flashpoint to reignite the battle over whether assisted suicide should be legalized in Italy.
In April, the Italian House voted to allow a patient to refuse treatment under certain conditions, but it must still pass the Senate.
Cappato has accompanied other Italians to Switzerland for suicide. On April 19, he and Mina Welby, another right-to-die activist, assisted in the death of another Italian from Tuscany. They are both under investigation for that case as well. It's not know how the judgment of Milan's prosecutors will affect that case.