Milan DJ chooses “assisted suicide”

Italian law still not approved.

Fabiano Antoniani, 39, a Milanese DJ better known as “Fabo”, chose to die in a clinic in Switzerland on Monday 27 February after suffering as a blind quadriplegic since a traffic accident in 2014 – and his case has become a nationwide talking-point.

Fabo was taken to a clinic near Zurich in Switzerland, where the law permits assisted suicide, accompanied by his friend Marco Cappato, member of  the Radical Party and of the “Luca Coscioni” association which lobbies for an as yet unavailable legal solution in Italy to terminal suffering. Cappato has also been a member of the Italian chamber of deputies and the European parliament.

He was taken through the medical protocol, confirmed his wish to end “this hell of pain, of pain, of pain”, and operated himself with a bite the mechanism which administered the lethal cocktail of drugs – thus fulfilling the legal requirement for “assisted suicide” rather than “euthanasia”.

Fabo had been an active sportsman, including motor cross rider, alongside his professional activity as a popular disk-jockey and insurance broker until the accident which cut short his active life. As his medical condition grew ever more unbearable, he pleaded for a way out of his suffering, even addressing a request to the president of the republic, Sergio Mattarella.

He was supported by the association founded by Luca Coscioni, an economist who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1995 and who spent his last years campaigning for research into rare terminal conditions until he died of ALS in 2006.

Fabo’s case has injected new life into the discussion over the legal situation in Italy, which was earlier stirred by the death of poet and painter Piergiorgio Welby in 2006. A further case which ignited public discussion was that of Eluana Englaro, who at age 21 entered a persistent vegetative state after a traffic accident, and whose father campaigned for 17 years for the right to end her life with dignity.

Beppino Englaro fought the case through to the supreme court before obtaining permission to suspend her nutrition and allow her to die. The case almost provoked a constitutional crisis when then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi issued a decree overturning the court’s verdict, but president Napolitano declined to sign the decree.

On his return from Switzerland Cappato went to the Carabinieri police in Milan on Tuesday to report himself for his role of helper in Fabo’s last journey, in the hope of seeing the case come before a court and thus provoke action by parliament. “My aim is to get the state to assume its responsibilities," he told media.

Prime minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Tuesday, World Rare Diseases Day, that the Italian constitution sees health as a fundamental right of every citizen, and that the challenges of lesser-known illnesses and lack of resources mustn’t prevent us from trying to respect this obligation.

But Gentiloni also pointed out that the bill at present before the chamber of deputies does not directly concern euthanasia or assisted suicide, but rather the recognition of a “biological will”.