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That's also the feeling in Britain, where courts must decide on a case-by-case basis whether nutrition and hydration can be denied to patients in a PVS. Courts are also involved in resolving disagreements on whether treatment should be withheld from critically ill patients. Last year, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court Family Division, ruled that doctors had the right to deny 9-month-old Luke Winston-Jones mechanical ventilation if he stopped breathing, despite his mother's insistence on intervention. Winston-Jones was born with a rare genetic condition that left him with holes in his heart. If his condition deteriorated, doctors wanted to allow Luke to die; last November he did. A similar case is currently going through the British courts involving Charlotte Wyatt, a 17-month-old girl suffering from serious brain, lung and kidney damage. Physicians say the child, who's already been resuscitated three times, should not be revived again; the parents disagreed and have been back to court with evidence that the baby's condition had improved. A ruling is expected in April.
The Schiavo case could not happen in Germany, according to Dr. Jörg-Dietrich Hoppe, president of the Federal Chamber of Doctors, because treatment would only be withdrawn when a patient has clearly expressed the wish to die. "We agree with the part of Schiavo's family that wants life-saving treatment to be continued because at the moment she is not terminally ill," Hoppe says. "If it could be proved that [Schiavo] had expressed a wish that treatment should be stopped, that would be a different matter."
Some Europeans argue that removing Schiavo's feeding tube is cruel. "Being starved and dehydrated is not a death with dignity," says Tara Flood, spokesperson for Britain's Disability Awareness in Action. Others would welcome more American-style pro-life passion. Italy's Minister for European Affairs, Rocco Buttiglione, who last year was forced to withdraw his candidacy as the European Union's Commissioner for Justice after making controversial remarks on homosexuality and the role of women, applauds American politicians' intervention in the Schiavo case. "It's moving to see a great participation of the American people and great movement for life," Buttiglione told Time. "It will strengthen the position of those opposing euthanasia in Europe and start a debate here."
But so far, there is little evidence of one. Ten years ago, Pope John Paul II signed the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which deemed euthanasia a "crime that no human law can claim to legitimize." "There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws," the encyclical reads. "Instead, there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection." Many Europeans, though, seem content to leave harrowing decisions like those in the Schiavo case to the consciences of families and physicians.