Pope condemns assisted suicide

Speaking at his general audience, Francis praised palliative care aimed at helping terminally ill patients live as comfortably and humanely as possible.

"We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide," he said.

In 2019, Italy's Constitutional Court partially decriminalised assisted suicide under certain conditions if local health authorities and an ethics board approved. But the court also said parliament should pass a law regulating it.

The draft of the law that parliament was due to start discussing on Wednesday afternoon would allow terminally ill patients to seek assisted suicide through the national health system.

It would also protect doctors from any legal suits against them.

But Italy's political parties remain deeply divided, with the centre-left generally supporting it and the centre-right opposed.