ALS sufferer first to end life under new Italian laws

Patrizia Cocco.

ROME – Italy’s new medical laws that allow for patients to end their own lives have been used for the first time, by a patient suffering from ALS, commonly known as Motor Neurone Syndrome. Patrizia Cocco, was 49 and lived in the Sardinian city of Nuoro.

 Her decision to refuse ventilation at the end of January makes her the first patient to utilise Italy’s “Advance Treatment Provisions” (DAT) that was passed into law in Dec 2017.

 The new rules, known in Italy as the “Living Will,” mean that patients can have their life-support machine turned off while doctors can move them onto palliative treatment to end their lives without a court hearing. Applause broke out in the chamber when the law was passed at the end of last year, with campaigners breaking into to tears as the change was enacted by 180 votes against 71.

 Sebastian Cocco, Patrizia’s cousin and legal representative, told ANSA that “Patrizia’s decision was very courageous and lucid.” Detailing that she had passed away smiling surrounding by friends and family.

 “She waited for years for the law, ever since she felt imprisoned by the illness, surviving in a state the conditions of which she no longer wanted to endure,” he argued.  

 “The new law,” he explained, “allows doctors to facilitate the will of the patient without having to go to a judge as happened previously and so Patrizia was allowed to make her decision. It protects the right to health, to dignity and to self-determination.”