Rome, Feb 9, 2009 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- The 38 year-old Italian woman who was in a coma and whose father had waged a battle in the courts to disconnect her feeding tube and euthanize her died today at 8:10 p.m. local time.
Four days after her food and water were withdrawn, amidst a divisive debate throughout the country over the passage of a law that could have saved her, Eluana Englaro died at the La Quiete Hospital in Udine.
According to La Repubblica, upon learning of the news via telephone of his daughter’s death, Beppino Englaro said, “Yes, she has left us. But I don’t want to say anything else, I want to be alone.” Mr. Englaro led the fight to have her daughter’s feeding tube disconnected and bring about her death. He also had taken Eluana to the hospital in Udine where her food and hydration were withdrawn.
The director of the La Quiete Hospital, Ines Domenicali, confirmed that Eluana had died. “She’s dead. I don’t know what time it was, don’t ask me any more questions.” Outside the hospital where she was taken after being removed from the care of a group of the Sisters of Mercy in Lecco, some 200 people had gathered to pray for Eluana.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the President of the Pontifical Council of Health Care, reacted to the news of Eluana’s death, praying, "May the Lord welcome her and forgive those who led her there (to her death).”
The Vatican prelate also emphasized that “it must be seen under what circumstances the death occurred, whether it was because of the suspension of food and hydration, or by various causes.”
The case drew requests from dozens of leaders to save the Italian woman, while promoters of euthanasia were hoping her case could become a precedent for the legalization of euthanasia in Italy. Polls showed 70% of Italians favored euthanizing her.
Intense coverage of the case by Vatican watcher Sandro Magister and the Italian bishops’ daily L’Avvenire moved public opinion against disconnecting her feeding tubes, with the daily Corriere della Sera reporting on Monday that support for such a decision had dropped to 50%.