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35 year-old Italian woman Eluana Englaro has been in a coma for 17 years, following a car accident in 1992. After years of debate in the legislature and in public, her father has finally been granted the right by the court to have her feeding tube unplugged. The Roman Catholic church has spoken out against this of course, with Cardinal Antonelli saying,

"Eluana is in a 'vegetative state,' but she is not a vegetable. She is a person who is sleeping," he said. "The person, also when she is sleeping or disabled, retains all of her dignity. The person is valuable in herself, not for what she produces or consumes, or for the pleasure or satisfaction she gives to others." -

The Free Dictionary defines Euthanasia as being "The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment."  However, this one definition encompasses what I think are two very different actions.  The first is to actively kill someone who is suffering terrible pain.  The second is to withdraw an unnatural means of keeping the suffering person alive.  One is active, the other is passive, and it can't be right to talk about them as being the same thing.

Ideally, Eluana would continue to receive her life support through the feeding tubes. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and there is suffering everywhere.  At some level, we are forced to place a dollar-value on a person's life; we must make the awful decision between investing money here, to save one life, or here, to save ten lives.

One other notable aspect of such a case, is that it sets a precedent for future cases.  Will an amendment to Italy's euthanasia law provide a loophole for people wishing to end their own life, or the life of a relative?

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