The Italian government today approved an emergency decree to stop the family of a woman in a coma for the past 17 years from assisting her death, though President Giorgio Napolitano said he would not sign it, ANSA news agency reported.
The agency said the right-wing cabinet of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gave unanimous backing to the decree, but the measure lacked Napolitano's signature required for it to become law.
The president had said in a letter to Berlusconi that he did not find the case of Eluana Englaro of an "urgent nature," and would not sign it, ANSA reported earlier.
ANSA said the decree states that food and water "can in no case be refused by persons concerned, or suspended by those assisting people unable to take their own decisions."
Englaro, 37, arrived Tuesday at a hospital in the northeastern Italian town of Udine, where doctors said her feeding tubes would be removed in three days so that she can die peacefully.
Englaro has been in a coma since January 1992 following a traffic accident. Her case has gripped Italians and triggered a fierce debate over euthanasia, which is vigorously opposed by the powerful Roman Catholic Church.
Her father won the right to stop feeding her intravenously as the result of a November 13 court order.
If the emergency decree is approved, it could be unconstitutional, said lawyer Franca Alessio, who represents Englaro.