DJ Fabo having therapy before he ended his life in a suicide clinic. via The Mirror (UK)
Fabiano Antoniani, better known as “DJ Fabo”, was once a healthy and successful young man, but he spent the last three years of his life gravely disabled after a car accident. In recounting his story I do not mean to pronounce any judgement on the people involved in his case or others — especially on those who have to face, each day of their life, a condition of terrible pain and suffering.
It is always sad when a person decides to terminate his or her own life. It is an event which deserves compassion and should never be exploited for any reason, neither for advancing pro-euthanasia ideas, nor even for countering them.
After his accident “Fabo”, a well-known DJ, was blind and unable to move. Returning from hospital in November 2015 he was at first determined to live and to undergo a protocol of rehabilitation created for him by his physician, Angelo Mainini. Fabo also sought information about new therapies, which he hoped could help him to improve his condition and retrieve some of his former abilities.
When Fabo realised that the current state of medicine did not offer him substantial hopes of improvement, he fell into despair and decided that his life was not worth living any more. He expressed the wish to die, and received assistance to fulfil his intention from the Associazione Luca Coscioni, a branch of the Italian Radical Party which actively fights for legalised euthanasia in Italy.
There is currently no such law in Italy. The terminally ill may refuse certain therapies or life-sustaining measures, though – as it obviously happens in such instances – the line between what is allowed by law and what is not is rather fluid.
In the past, a few cases attracted notable media attention and provoked intense and heated polemics in Italy. There was the case of Piergiorgio Welby, a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who actively fought, together with his wife Mina (and with the Associazione Luca Coscioni) for the right to suspend the artificial ventilation which was indispensable for his survival. He died of asphyxia in 2006.
In 2009 there was another high profile case, that of Eluana Englaro, who was left in a persistent vegetative state after an accident. While still a healthy young girl, Eluana had allegedly said to a friend, concerning a gravely disabled acquaintance, “I would prefer dying than living such a life”. When she became helpless herself her sentence was remembered and used to argue for ending her life, even though it is evident that euthanasia should not be sought and administered on such a thin ground. So many of us say “I couldn’t bear this or that” but would not like to be killed if that condition should happen. However, her father argued that his daughter’s “will” to die had to be “respected”.
Eluana was lovingly cared for by a congregation of Catholic nuns, who did everything in their power to prevent her being killed. There was also a parliamentary fight: the centre-right party led by the then-prime-minister Berlusconi approved an emergency bill which would have saved Eluana, but it needed the President of the Republic’s signature. President Napolitano advanced doubts on the constitutionality of the bill and refused to sign. Eluana died by starvation two days after her artificial nutrition was suspended.
There are also a few associations which help people who wish to be euthanatized to accomplish their intention in the countries which allow active or passive termination of life. The country closest to Italy where euthanasia is actually possible is Switzerland, which attracts a macabre death tourism with ethically dubious partnerships between Italian associations and Swiss clinics. Several Italian citizens have died in these clinics, among them, a few days ago, Fabo.
The suffering of DJ Fabo and his choice to die were intensely publicised, partly thanks to a forthcoming parliamentary debate on the end-of-life. The bill due to be discussed would not permit any active form of euthanasia, but would open a lawful door for so-called “passive forms”, such as the suspension of artificial feeding.
Euthanasia activists are polemically claiming that Fabo’s last journey to Switzerland would have been unnecessary if Italy were a “civilised” country allowing for death-on-demand. Many are exploiting the rightful compassion aroused by a sad story to win “emotional” approval of the bill under discussion. Once more, the strategy is clear, and has been demonstrated to be a winning one: to use a particularly sad case as a lever which brings public opinion to agree with practices most people normally wouldn’t have accepted. From there it is a short step to enacting laws which allow for slippery slopes like those observed in most countries which permit euthanasia — and in Italy itself as concerns abortion.
While expressing solidarity and closeness with all who are suffering for the loss of Fabo, and to all those in a similar condition, there are many who hope that his death will not become a Trojan horse for introducing euthanasia – under any name – to Italy.
Dr Chiara Bertoglio is a musician and theologian moonlighting as a journalist. She writes from Italy. Visit her website.