This Wednesday, through a court ruling, in Ecuador For the first time, the possibility of a terminally ill patient resorts to euthanasia. In turn, the Ecuadorian Court went further: it granted the Ministry of Health two months to prepare a regulation on active euthanasia and six months to the Ombudsman's Office to prepare a bill that regulates it and that Congress must debate and approve in a period of one year.
The decision made by the Constitutional Court of that country comes after a tough court battle faced by Paola Roldán, a 43-year-old woman suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SHE).
Roldán's disease progressively disables his muscles and makes him need oxygen assistance and specialized personnel 24 hours a day. Furthermore, you can only feed intravenously.
In August 2023the woman had presented a demand calling for the unconstitutionality of article 144 of the Penal Code of Ecuador, which criminalized homicide and established a sentence of 10 to 13 years in prison for anyone who committed it. Euthanasia, as such, was not included as a cause of non-imputability or guiltlessness in Ecuadorian law.
Paola Roldán suffers from ALS and has become the first case in Ecuador in which euthanasia is approved.
In its ruling, the highest court of guarantees of Ecuador declared the “conditioned constitutionality” for Roldán's assisted death, although he established that a doctor must carry out the procedure and that she must express her unequivocal, free and informed consent or, if you cannot inform it, you must do so through your representative.
Another requirement established by the Court is that the patient suffer intense suffering caused by an injury that must necessarily be bodily, serious and irreversible or an illness that is serious and incurable.
Roldán also stated in his claim that a dignified death It is a right of “those who suffer and have suffered serious or incurable diseases.” and they decide “freely and voluntarily to end their life” to stop “intense physical or emotional pain or suffering.”
In a statement she gave in November via the internet, the woman had told the judges: “Week after week I am a conscious witness of every faculty that I am losing”.
Until the issuance of this ruling, euthanasia was not legal in Ecuador, although “passive euthanasia” was contemplated, that is, the possibility of that a family member makes the decision to disconnect the equipment that keeps a patient alive.
“Several times I thought that I would not be able to see the fruits of this lawsuit, like someone who plants a tree so that someone else can sit under its shadow,” Roldán had written on Friday on his Twitter, while a resolution was still awaited.
Several times I thought that I would not be able to see the fruits of this demand, like someone who plants a tree so that someone else can sit under its shade.
But I have survived and now I want to see if the blood of justice and humanity runs through the veins of this country, or if we continue in the retrograde… https://t.co/jr51X9Gx2T
— Paola Roldan Espinosa (@PaolaRoldanE) February 2, 2024
Now it will be up to the Ministry of Health to prepare a regulation on active euthanasiafor which the Court granted him two months.
The Ombudsman's Office, for its part, will have six months to prepare a bill that regulates it. The Legislative Assembly must debate and approve this project within one year.
Euthanasia in Argentina
In our country, assisted death is not allowedalthough yes orthothanasia existswhich is what is known as passive euthanasia: not subjecting a patient to prolonging their life when this is medically useless.
The law that authorizes this practice in our country is 26,742 and emerged in 2012, from the case of Camila López which was more than two years in the palliative care ward from a hospital, admitted in a vegetative state.
According to this law, the same patient, in a lucid state but knowing that he has a terminal and irreversible illness, can reject surgical procedures, resuscitation artificial or even asking have life support measures removed when they are extraordinary or disproportionate to the prospect of improvement or produce disproportionate suffering.
also can order the doctor to stop treating youand even stop feeding and hydrating him when this only serves to prolong time in an irreversible or incurable terminal state.
In the rest of Latin America only Colombia decriminalized euthanasiain 1997. Uruguay and Chile are still discussing projects in this regard, while in Mexico there is the call law of “good death”“, which authorizes the patient or his family to request that life not be prolonged by artificial means.