ROME (Reuters) -The Italian government on Monday granted citizenship to a critically ill baby girl from Britain, in a move aimed at preventing doctors from weaning her off life support and allowing her to be moved to Italy.
Eight-month-old Indi Gregory suffers from a rare mitochondrial disease, which means that her cells do not produce enough energy. A hospital in Nottingham, central England, says there is no point in continuing treatment.
England's High Court agreed, ruling last month it was in the baby's "best interests" to be taken off life support, and refusing last week a request from her parents to be allowed to take her to the Vatican's children hospital in Rome.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's government stepped into the controversy by holding an emergency meeting on Monday which made Gregory an Italian citizen. It was the sole item on the cabinet's agenda.
"They say there isn't much hope for little Indi, but until the end I will do what I can to defend her life. And to defend her mum and dad's right to do everything they can for her," Meloni wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Galeazzo Bignami, a junior minister, said the government's move would allow the baby's transfer to the Bambino Gesu paediatric hospital, and that without it her life support would have been turned off on Monday.
Gregory's parents will be able to appeal to the Italian consulate in Britain to ask that she be airlifted to Italy, an Italian government source told Reuters, adding however that there was no obligation for Britain to grant the request.
In a statement after the cabinet meeting, the Italian government said it was committed to cover the costs of medical treatment at the Bambino Gesu, a Vatican-run facility near St Peter's.
"Even if the transfer to Italy involves some risk, the only alternative we have been offered in the UK is to go along with Indi's death. There is nothing to lose for us or for Indi," the father, Dean Gregory, said via Christian Concern, a lobby representing the parents.
A Bambino Gesu spokesperson had no comment but Christian Concern has released a statement from the president of the hospital confirming that it was ready to accept Indi as a patient.
The case has echoes of one from 2018 when a British court rejected an attempt by the parents of a critically ill 23-month-old toddler to take him to the Bambino Gesu. The toddler, Alfie Evans, died a few days after his life support was removed.
(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, additional reporting by Gavin Jones, Editing by Nick Macfie)