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Berlusconi accuses rivals over coma woman's death
Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:21am EST
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By Carlos Saccon
UDINE, Italy (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Eluana Englaro, who died in the middle of a debate about her right to die after 17 years in coma, had been killed and the head of state was among those responsible.
"Eluana did not die a natural death, she was killed," the conservative premier told Libero newspaper, blaming Italy's leftist President Giorgio Napolitano for rejecting an emergency decree that would have forced doctors to resume feeding her.
"Napolitano made a serious mistake," another paper quoted Berlusconi as saying. The premier lamented that the bill he then sent to parliament to stop Eluana's nutrition from being suspended "did not make it in time."
Englaro, who had been in a coma since a car crash in 1992, was "the only citizen to be condemned to death," he said.
But the leftist newspaper l'Unita had a black front page with the words "In Pace" -- "in peace."
The flag flew at half-mast over the Senate, which had been discussing Berlusconi's bill to stop the 38-year-old woman's father and doctors from suspending her nutrition when she passed away suddenly at a clinic in the northern town of Udine.
Doctors stopped feeding her Friday at her family's request in line with a ruling by Italy's top court. Berlusconi said this amounted to euthanasia, which is illegal in Italy.
Conservatives and the center left accused each other of seeking political capital from the case, which has riveted Italy and angered the Vatican. Some opposition figures see Catholic cardinals' influence behind Berlusconi's outspoken stance.
"I hope God will help us to heal this wound," the head of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, told local TV, adding that the country "needs a just law, for the good of our society, to avoid events like this being repeated."
"You cannot let someone die of hunger and thirst," said Berlusconi's ally Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League. "It is something primitive, inhuman, unacceptable."
Englaro has been called "Italy's Terri Schiavo," the American woman in a vegetative state who was allowed to die in 2005 after a long legal fight.
Catholic activists who had been opposed to stopping feeding Englaro said the courts should order her body sequestered for an autopsy and a judicial investigation, asking why she died so quickly when she had been expected to survive for several weeks.
"Something very strange has happened," said Gianluigi Gigli, head of the "For Eluana" anti-euthanasia group, late Monday.
Outside the Udine clinic where she died people prayed and sang through the night, holding candles. Continued...
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