Man convicted for gunning down Alzheimer’s-stricken wife

ROME - The Italian Court of Appeal has sentenced an elderly man to six years and six months behind bars after shooting his wife, a long-standing sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease. Since the Italian government has yet to legalise euthanasia, judges have treated the 88-year-old’s act as a criminal offence warranting imprisonment.

 On Dec. 1, 2007, ex-policeman Vitangelo Bini fired three shots at his wife, an inpatient at the Hospital of Prato. He reportedly wanted to put an end to her “serious and irrevocable physical and mental suffering.”

 A judge declared that, although it may be considered “an act of civility” to kill an animal condemned to eternal suffering, “when it comes to human beings, the principle of solidarity must be taken into account” as well as “a superior respect for humans’ lives.”

 It was decided that, “compassion or pity cannot be felt for an individual who ends the life of another, who had been capable of feeling the same emotions.” For this reason, a person who terminates the life of someone suffering from severe and irrevocable pain cannot be entitled to “special, moral treatment”.

 The case echoes proceedings in February 2018 which saw an elderly man sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison for having killed his severely ill, 88-year-old wife. Judges made their decision on the basis that there is “no general approval of euthanasia in society” and that “broad schools of thought still disagree with it.” They therefore felt “forced not to concede to mitigating circumstances.”

 The defence pleaded with the Supreme Court to acknowledge the “difficult and desperate nature of his decision”, and to admire the respect he paid to his wife’s desires. They argued that “terminating the suffering of a loved one, and respecting the individual unable to articulate their emotions” adds another dimension to the case. They called on the Court to recognise that he was already “incapable of supporting his wife’s incessant suffering and physical deterioration.”

 Despite appeals to European countries that had already legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide, the man’s sentence was firmly upheld.