The Italian government has been plunged into a constitutional crisis over the fate of a 38-year-old woman who has been in a coma for the past 17 years. Eluana Englaro was left in a vegetative state after a car crash in 1992. After a decade-long court battle, doctors reduced her nutrition on Friday in preparation for removing her feeding tubes, which her father claims would be in accordance with her wishes.
But in an extraordinary turn of events, the country's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, after consultation with the Vatican, has issued an emergency decree stating that food and water cannot be suspended for any patient depending upon them, reversing the earlier court ruling. On issuing the emergency decree, Berlusconi declared: "This is murder. I would be failing to rescue her. I'm not a Pontius Pilate."
Justifying his campaign to save Englaro's life, the prime minister added that, physically at least, she was "in the condition to have babies", a remark described by La Stampa newspaper as "shocking".
The case has deeply divided Italian society and raised concerns over the influence of the Vatican. Yesterday Pope Benedict indirectly referred to Englaro in a message delivered to mark the World Day of the Sick, stating that society had a duty to defend "the absolute and supreme dignity of every human being" even when "weak and shrouded in the mystery of suffering".
What is it with men's weird fascination with raping sleeping women?
Go read the comments at Pharyngula.
h/t CC at Canadian Cynic
UPDATE: Ms Englaro has died.