Italy steps closer to euthanasia referendum

750,000 people in Italy sign petition to legalise euthanasia.

Right-to-die activists in Italy have secured more than 750,000 signatures in a petition calling for a referendum to decriminalise euthanasia.

The signatures - over 500,000 gathered in person and more than 250,000 online via Italy's digital identity system SPID - are well in excess of the half a million threshold required to trigger a public vote.

Campaigners have now reached their stated goal of obtaining 750,000 names by 30 September but say the petition will continue, "to send an even clearer and stronger message to the institutions and to the whole country."

What is the petition calling for?

The petition, which began in June, calls for a referendum to abolish a clause in a 1930 law that punishes the homicide of a consenting person with up to 15 years in jail.

Assisted suicide is a divisive issue in Italy and faces strong opposition from conservative politicians and the Vatican which condemns it as "an intrinsically evil act."

However Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza, of the left-wing LeU group, says he is in favour of a parliamentary debate on the matter.