Monday, November 24, 2008

To Eluana's father

ROME, November 14, 2008 ( – (By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent) - The highest Italian court has cleared the way for a young disabled Italian woman to be dehydrated to death at the request of her father - the first decision of its kind in Italy. In a decision released last night, the Court of Cassation upheld the ruling of a lower court that the assisted food and hydration keeping Eluana Englaro alive may be removed, thereby ensuring Englaro’s death by dehydration and starvation.

Englaro, who is now 37 and is not on a ventilator, has been in a state of diminished consciousness since being in a car accident in 1992 at age 20. She has lived with the assistance of a feeding tube. Her father, Beppino Englaro, has been petitioning courts to remove his daughter's assisted nutrition and hydration since 1999.

In June this year, the lower court had ruled that doctors could withdraw food and water, a decision that was challenged by the state. Should Eluana die by court-ordered dehydration, this would be the first case of its kind in Italy. Legal experts have said that Eluana’s death would mark the first steps toward legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia in this once strongly Catholic country.

In the whole story about Eluana, that dramatically came up again on newspapers headlines and is igniting discussions, there are two things that strike me most.

First: mutual indignation. Those who defend Eluana's right to live - and I am among them - , and therefore are opposing to the interruption of food and hydration, and calling it a murder, are outraged. But, surprisingly, those who on the contrary are asking to give death as a "deliverance" to Eluana, are even more outraged: they are accusing us of being cruel and heartless. Both groups use almost the same words to invoke two diametrically different solutions: and those more "spiritually inspired" seem to be the euthanasia supporters, because they describe Eluana's body as a prison in which she is unfairly and painfully retained, as she was someone different from her body. But when that body will be dried out and destroyed for good, where will Eluana be? And if she simply ceases to be, what good will she get from her "deliverance"?

Second, and more important: her father's stance. I'm writing this post while being almost certain that he won't read it, becuase he is understandably fed up with following all these diatribes. A few weeks ago he declared that "he would now let everybody say what they want about his decision", as if to say that he was not going to listen anymore, or answer anymore, all the more so now that he feels he eventually won the best for her daughter. The best.

If he could read me, however, I'd like to tell him: you suffer more than her, and I have more compassion of you than of her. The pain you bear every day is certainly worse than what she will suffer while dying. You once said you have been living as in hell, and you are right, because hell is deprivation of love. Eluana is loved by many but not by you, although you would like to be able to love her. You can't, because your heart is devastated by her condition, so that you impose an absurd block to yourself: somewhere in your heart, you decided you could not give love to her anymore, not food and water anymore, not life anymore. You forbid yourself to love her! You gave life to her, years ago, and now you take it back, while being submerged in your harsh, constant pain.

Truth is, you don't want to see her anymore. Truth is, you hope that if she dies, she takes away with her that hell-like impossibility to love her that you have in your heart. But instead, she will go, and your ice-cold heart will not find peace.

During all this time I've been praying for you more than for her, and I will keep praying for you - no matter how this story goes - that you can really get out of your hell, and learn to love again.

Please, look at those who love Eluana. Not at us, comfortably sitting in front of our keyboards, and welcoming our perfectly healthy children as they get back home from their entertainments. Look at the nuns, who care about her, wash her, dress her, feed her every day, and who have been begging you to be able to keep doing so. Eluana does not freeze their hearts. They love her. They accept her as she is. You, I, we all in this world want to be loved exactly this way: just the way we are. Look at them. You see? It is possible to love Eluana. You can love her. She does not need the deliverance of death: she needs love, as everybody else does. Give her your love, too.

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