Italy's northwestern Piedmont region is poised to disregard government objections and help a woman, in a coma for 17 years, to die following a court decision, a newspaper report said Wednesday.
"Eluana's tragic story has become unbearable for a civilised country, from a legal and human point of view," said Piedmont's governor Mercedes Bresso, a member of the centre-left Democrat Party.
Eluana Englaro's father had fought up to Italy's highest appeal court for the right to have her life support system removed.
The court's final ruling was made on November 13 but Milan, the capital of Lombardy and Italy's second largest city near where Englaro is hospitalised, has since barred hospitals under its control from carrying out the decision.
Bresso said Piedmont, which borders on Lombardy, was ready to help enforce the court ruling because of "the lengthy legal battle followed by the disrespect of the father's rights".
The lawyer representing the Englaro family said they would cautiously consider the offer.
"The offer from Piedmont is a first step forward. We will examine it, but we are being cautious because being at the head of a region does not mean you have all the powers," Vittorio Angiolini told AFP.
Several other regions in predominantly Catholic Italy had offered to accommodate Englaro during her final days but changed their minds, apparently under pressure from Health Minister Maurizio Sacconi.
Sacconi warned subsidised state hospitals last month of "unimaginable consequences" if they were to suspend Englaro's nutrition.
"This especially threatens private institutions, where the minister has the power to order administrative and financial investigations," while public hospitals lie under regional jurisdiction, Angiolini said.
Italy's Roman Catholic Church has come out strongly against any form of mercy killing and warned against stopping artificially feeding the 37-year-old woman.
The archbishop of Turin, Severino Poletto, said Tuesday that stopping the young woman's nutrition would be "clearly an act of euthanasia", while Piedmont leader Bresso said her decision was based on "a secular ethic".
"We may be at the end of a useless form of barbarism," Englaro's father Beppino told the Turin newspaper La Stampa, thanking the Piedmont leader for understanding "our tragedy".
Another lawyer for the Englaro family, Franca Alessio, will on Thursday challenge the region's decision in front of a Milan court.
"Just as the region has the duty to ensure and guarantee citizens the treatment they need, its duty is also to interrupt it if it is requested and, in this case, when there has been authorisation" from the courts, she said.
Eluana Englaro fell into a coma after a car accident and her father has been seeking an end to her life support since 1999.
The Milan court said that Englaro, when fully conscious, had stated her preference to die rather than being kept alive artificially.
Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Catholic Church, accused the court of "necrophilia" after the ruling.
The Church refused to allow a religious funeral for poet and writer Piergiorgio Welby in 2006.
Welby, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, died after being taken off an artificial respirator.