by Gabriele Maria Genovese

Brief reflections with respect to C. Cost. N. 242/2019 on assisted suicide: doubts and possible consequences.

A nature, represented by modernity, that has faith in the ability of reason to understand the right and the good, and therefore also to enlighten the path of freedom of each one of us, is flanked by a nihilistic and relativistic nature, in which there are no inter-subjectively binding values: everyone has the right to pursue his or her own happiness as he or she prefers, thus opening wide the doors to a hedonistic individualism, which makes happiness coexist with psychophysical well-being and, which, therefore, does not tolerate the idea that the human being might suffer.

This is probably the guiding reason of the Criminal High Court of Milan, which in relation to the case of Dj Fabo and of assisted suicide, in the referral to the Constitutional Court, questioned the sacredness and disposability of life, suggesting that this was a consequence of the view of the relationship between the Individual and the State, typical of the period when the Criminal Code came into force and, in particular, of the principle of subordination of the former to the latter.

The Constitutional Court with judgment n. 242/2019, although it rejected the arguments of the Milanese judge regarding the recognition of a right to suicide, partially intervened on the character of the disposability of life, opening a door (albeit narrow) to the most extreme interpretation of the principle of individual self-determination.

In fact, in order to exclude the punishing of those who assist another to undertake steps aimed at ending their life, the Court considered that sufficient conditions included: the ability to make decisions freely; submission to life-support treatment; and an irreversible disease from which physical or psychological suffering are deemed intolerable by the patient.

These conditions, and the manner in which they are implemented, require to be verified at a public facility of the national health service, following the opinion of the relevant ethics committee.

In view of the above, and taking note of the guarantees set out by the Constitutional Court relating to the assisted suicide of a patient, the "grey areas" of this judgment appear numerous; yet, two areas in particular, merit further questioning: firstly, how do the differences between physical and psychological suffering affect a person?; and secondly, to what extent can a person consider themself free to choose, if they are conditioned by a physical or psychological pain, considered intolerable?

Beyond these issues, which are not unimportant, the path opened by the Court's judgment appears, practically speaking, to not be easily feasible, to such an extent, that one might doubt whether it will have any real impact on the facts.

It, therefore, seems to be a distant possibility, at least for the time being, that in our judicial system, can arise such dangerous deviations, such as those of other Member States of the European Union, which in some more extreme cases, has rendered assisted suicide optional for demented, depressed and disabled people.

For a Catholic, in addition to the responsibility to never “let down the guard” against relativism, there remains the bitterness of seeing a painful life recognised, in part or in whole, as unworthy of being lived, as if pain were not a test for ourselves, and as if through pain, it were not possible to affirm the indisputable dignity of man.