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PRINCETON, New Jersey — On Dec. 21, an Italian doctor, Mario Riccio, disconnected a respirator that was keeping Piergiorgio Welby alive. Welby, who suffered from muscular dystrophy and was paralyzed, had battled unsuccessfully in the Italian courts for the right to die.

After Riccio gave him a sedative and switched off the respirator, Welby said “thank you” three times to his wife, his friends and his doctor. Forty-five minutes later, he was dead.

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