For more than a year, media reports kept Italians up to date on the travails of a 44-year-old man known only as “Mario” as he sought to end his life through physician-assisted suicide. Paralyzed 12 years ago in a traffic accident, “Mario” faced a series of legal, bureaucratic and financial hurdles in his pursuit of death.
On Thursday, “Mario,” identified for the first time by his real name, Federico Carboni, ended his life, becoming Italy’s first legal assisted suicide, in his home in the central Italian port town of Senigallia.
What to make of this? Note that the patient who killed himself was not terminally ill, but paralyzed — illustrating the fact that assisted suicide isn’t about terminal illness. Rather, it is a philosophy that sees death as a proper and empowering response to suffering caused by serious disease, disability, mental illness, and the morbidities of old age.
This is why disability-rights organizations are so adamantly opposed to legalization. They see themselves — correctly in my view — as the primary targets of the movement. And indeed, we see in places such as Canada, people with disabilities choosing to be euthanized because they are denied the kind of services that would help them want to live.
The court ruling reflects how much of the West is fast becoming pro-some suicides, a policy that basically says that we should try to prevent suicides of the young and of veterans. But that people with serious illnesses or disabilities are better off having their suicides facilitated, a message repeatedly encouraged by laudatory stories in the media.
This is a terrible dereliction, even a failure of love. When we say that we will strive to save some from suicide — but not others — we are making a fundamental claim that the latter categories of people are not as important or valuable. If that devastating message of rejection isn’t a denial of equality, I don’t know what is.