According to his father, Beppino Englaro, Eluana was a very determined person. One of those strong girls that always have an answer for everything. She witnessed the coma legacy happened to one of her friends, long ago. A boy that was forced, by the doctors, to live a non-life. Apparently, she said “if something like that happens to me, I’d like to die”.
For some sort of poetic justice, something like that has – in fact – happened to her.
Fifteen years ago, in a town named Lecco – in Lombardy – she was hospitalized following a car accident, which had caused a cranial trauma. There was also a fracture at the level of her cervical vertebras, that would have bound her on a arm-chair forever. It doesn’t matter, though, because Eluana has been sleeping until nowadays. A coma, according to a medical definition, is “a state of deep unarousable unconsciousness”, practically speaking: a comatose person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to pain or light, does not have sleep-wake cycles, and does not take voluntary actions.
By the time she was hospitalized, the doctors decided to give her a chance. In order to save her from a certain death, they therefore administered medicines to Eluana and intubated her, because they said: “hope is always the last to die”. In spite of all these treatments, she couldn’t wake up, so they moved her to another ward. It was 1992, Eluana is now 37 year-old.
At the moment she is staying – like a plant would – at the hospital and the doctors there are living her life for her. She opens and closes her eyes like a real person, following the rhythm of day. However, she can’t see anything. Her lips tremble, her limbs are stretched. There is a straw passing from her nose that brings food into her stomach, an enema is her personal bathroom. Nurses wash her body with sponges everyday and help her sit on a chair, from time to time. They have to pay attention that she does not fall on the ground. They also move her body in bed so to avoid bedsores.
According to the Italian law, anyway, she can’t be considered dead because the accident only damaged her celebral cortex, instead of the entire brain. As remarked by Marco Malagutti, the British Medical Association and the American Academy of Neurology agree consider twelve months a period long enough to determine whether the patient can wake up from this kind of coma, or not. After that, there is no hope left.
Her father is legally responsible for the life of Eluana, however, despite all the advices coming from various medical sources that consider the state of this patient “incompatible with basic human dignity”, he can’t give a end on her “non-life” due to some sort of expectation of a miracle. More precisely he could, but he would have to follow a scary path in order to do so: it’s about letting her die by the lack of water and food, in this way it would take her twenty days to pass away. Try to imagine yourself witnessing the living-death of one of your relatives, could anyone cope with that?
Eluana’s one only represents the last case of what they call “therapeutic tenacity”. The lack of a law concerning Biological Testament in Italy has already caused endless pain. A recent verdict has finally ruled that Beppino Englaro – Eluana’s father – has the right to give her death, or perhaps we should call it peace. Although non venom can be injected. A violent polemic has erupted in Italy: someone wants Eluana to die, someone else is ready to feed her with water in case her father will decide to interrupt the medical treatments.
Who should decide whether to stay in a endless coma or leave this world? Who should decide about her own life if not Eluana herself? Italy is in a desperate need of a law on biological testament. Gaetano Quagliariello, a Pdl’s Senator and the President of The Magna Carta Foundation, said that “the power of the sovereign people should claim its own voice on such thorny matter”. We think he’s right.
Andrea Loquenzi Holzer