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Living Wills in Italy: Ethical and Comparative Law Approaches

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In this article, advance directives will be analysed through ethical and comparative law approaches. Their importance, the two different types of advance directives and the so-called three steps hierarchy, will be discussed. Living wills will be treated in detail, considering the criticism they have attracted, as well as their known benefits. A thorough examination of the latest version of Arts. 3 and 4 of Italian Bill No. 2350, as approved by the Italian Senate in March 2009 and then amended by the Chamber of Deputies in July 2011, is included. This bill grants advance directives advisory force, limits their application in time and does not allow the validity of oral declarations. This political decision limits autonomy. Furthermore, there are doubts about the constitutionality of this bill, especially with respect to Arts. 2, 13 and 32 of the Italian Constitution, related to the right of self-determination. Further, this article will include a comparative approach of the legal aspects, with particular attention to the French and German models. To conclude, some ethical principles that the Italian legislator must take into consideration are indicated. In addition, some possible modifications of this Bill are suggested based on the experience of other European legislation.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for History, Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine; Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences (CELLS); Hannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany; 2: Institute for History, Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine; Chairman, Clinical Ethics Committee; Hannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany


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