JULY 18, 2019

Italian Supreme Court Upholds the Health-Care Rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Italian Supreme Court Upholds the Health-Care Rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses

On May 15, 2019, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation, the highest court in the land, strengthened our brothers’ right to make decisions regarding their own medical care. The Court confirmed that a patient has the right to select a health-care agent who will uphold the patient’s decision to refuse a blood transfusion. Additionally, the Court confirmed that Italian law provides for the legal appointment of a health-care agent, even if, because of his health condition, he could imminently become unconscious or impaired in some way.

Brother and Sister Cappelli

The decision was the result of a series of trials involving Brother Luca Cappelli, a congregation elder. For the past 25 years, he has been afflicted by an abnormality of the blood vessels in the brain. Brother Cappelli’s condition not only requires multiple medical procedures, but also at times impairs his ability to communicate. In advance of his treatments, he conscientiously filled out an Advance Medical Directive and designated his wife, Francesca, as his health-care agent. However, a judge and a court of appeal refused to appoint his wife as his health-care agent, thus depriving Brother Cappelli of the legal means to protect himself from receiving an unwanted blood transfusion.

Brother Cappelli’s case went to the Supreme Court of Cassation on February 16, 2017. The Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts violated the Italian Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights, both of which protect patient autonomy. Interestingly, the Court stated that refusing a particular medical treatment “takes on even stronger connotations, worthy of protection and guarantee, when [it] is part of and is connected to the expression of a religious faith.” With this ruling of the Supreme Court, Italian courts are now required to respect to a greater degree the measures our brothers take to avoid blood transfusions.

We rejoice as a united brotherhood that the Supreme Court has acted to protect the rights of our brothers throughout Italy, who continue to uphold their Bible-trained conscience regarding the use of blood.—Acts 15:29.