The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002. (GETTY CREATIVE STOCK)

The woman was to be the first person to receive the procedure in Colombia without having a terminal illness.

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According to the statement released on Saturday by the Colombian Institute of Pain (Incodol), the Interdisciplinary Scientific Committee for the Right to a Dignified Death “Decided unanimously to suspend the process” by pointing out that “The termination criterion is not met, as it was taken into account in the first commission” when the case was respectively evaluated.

In Colombia, euthanasia was decriminalized in 1997, but it only became law in 2015. Since then, 157 processes have been carried out.

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Last July, the Constitutional Court of the country extended the right to a dignified death to those who suffer “Intense physical or mental suffering” due to incurable injury or illness. And that of Martha Sepúlveda had become the first case in which euthanasia was authorized in a patient who did not have a terminal illness.

Since 2018 Martha Sepúlveda, 51, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable disease that according to her family transformed her life into torment. For this reason, he appealed to the constitutional court of his country to approve the process of dignified death.

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Euthanasia in Colombia

Since the euthanasia law was promulgated in Colombia, the Ministry of Health established the guidelines to regulate the right to a dignified death.

These establish that the patient must have a terminal illness; consider that life is no longer worthy as a result of the disease and express consent in a “clear, informed, complete and precise” manner.

In addition, aid for dying must be provided by “a medical professional” with the authorization of a “scientific-interdisciplinary committee”.

However, Colombia also has a figure called freedom of conscience that allows doctors not to perform the procedure if it goes against their personal beliefs.

According to the Laboratory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in the country “there are still barriers within the health system that do not allow the exercise of the right to flow normally.”

“Among these challenges is the lack of knowledge about the rights and duties of citizens and entities of the health system and the bureaucracy and ineffectiveness in the procedures to receive applications and convene the scientific-interdisciplinary committee,” they indicate.

Besides Colombia, there are six other countries in the world where active euthanasia is legal.

1. Spain

Spain made history last March.

After a vote in Parliament with 202 votes in favor, 141 against and two abstentions, the European nation joined the short list of countries in which euthanasia is legal and the right of terminally ill patients to a “Worthy death.”

With the measure, Spain became the first in the Catholic tradition to pass legislation that guarantees terminal patients access to both euthanasia (administered by a doctor) and assisted suicide (in which the patient receives the drugs with which they may end his life).

As in many of the other countries where it was approved before, Spain will authorize its use only to people suffering from a “serious and incurable disease” or a “serious, chronic and incapacitating” condition that causes “intolerable suffering”.

Thus the Iberian nation became the fourth country in Europe to approve the procedure.

2. Netherlands

It was the first place in the world to approve active euthanasia in April 2002, after different judicial decisions were made beforehand that paved the way for legislation.

In 1973, a doctor was convicted of facilitating the death of his mother after repeated explicit requests for euthanasia.

The case generated great shock and, although the sentence was upheld, the court’s ruling established criteria that a doctor would not be required to keep a patient alive against their will.

3. Belgium

Just over a month after approval in the Netherlands, Belgium also legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.

It was also, years later, the first country in the world where euthanasia was approved for children under 12 years of age in cases of terminal illness.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002. (GETTY CREATIVE STOCK)

4. Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Parliament approved the legalization of euthanasia in March 2009.

Terminally ill patients have the option of requesting the procedure after receiving approval from two physicians and a panel of experts.

5. Canada

Euthanasia in Canada is called “medical assistance to die”And was legalized together with assisted suicide in June 2016.

The country establishes strict requirements, which range from requesting the procedure 10 days before it is put into practice, the presence of two independent witnesses and the approval of two doctors, who must confirm that the patient has no cure and is in an advanced stage of suffering.

Most of the countries that have approved euthanasia are European.  (GETTY IMAGES)
Most of the countries that have approved euthanasia are European. (GETTY IMAGES)

6. New Zealand

The country was the first in the world to submit euthanasia to a referendum, along with the ballots for the general elections at the end of 2020.

A majority of voters supported the measure, which opened the doors for the bill to take effect on November 6 of this year, 12 months after the final vote count.

Those requesting euthanasia must be 18 years old and will need the approval of two doctors.

Assisted suicide

In other parts of the world, although direct or active euthanasia is prohibited, there are regulations that allow other forms of “compassionate death”, such as assisted suicide, in which health personnel deliver drugs to end their life to the patient, which you must take them for yourself.

This practice is legal in Germany, Switzerland, the Australian state of Victoria, and in the US states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and also in the District of Columbia.

In many other nations, so-called indirect or passive euthanasia is legal, in which medical care or treatments are suspended and the patient is left to die when there is no longer hope.

What is happening in Latin America?

With the exception of Colombia, where there are still many legal and technical gaps for its application, direct euthanasia is prohibited in all Latin American countries.

In Peru, although laws prohibit euthanasia, a court recently ruled in favor of a request from Ana Estrada, a woman who has suffered from a degenerative disease for 30 years and who claimed her right to a dignified death.

Other nations in the region have laws that allow passive euthanasia.

This is the case of Argentina, where the Senate approved a law in 2012 authorizing the rejection of treatments that artificially prolong the life of patients with terminal or irreversible symptoms.

In some countries, it is legal for patients to refuse medical or palliative care.  (GETTY IMAGES)
In some countries, it is legal for patients to refuse medical or palliative care. (GETTY IMAGES)

In Chile, also since 2012, patients in terminal states can reject the continuity of treatment.

In December 2020, the Chamber of Deputies of the Andean country approved the bill of “Dignified death and palliative care”That seeks, under certain conditions, that a person can request medical assistance to die.

Mexico City and the states of Aguascalientes and Michoacán, in Mexico, also allow patients in terminal states to reject palliative treatments. However, several bills to authorize euthanasia have failed in Congress.

In Uruguay they have a law known as “advance will” or “good dying”, which also regulates the freedom of a patient to refuse treatment, including palliative care.


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