International

Judge rules non-terminally ill Colombian woman can be euthanized after all

euthanasia

A woman in Colombia seeking euthanasia despite not having a terminal illness will be allowed to die, a judge has ruled. Martha Sepúlveda would have been the first person in the country to be euthanized without a terminal illness until a medical committee decided earlier this month that she no longer qualified.

Sepúlveda was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2018, and began considering suicide once she could no longer move her legs. Originally, she was scheduled to die on October 10, a Sunday, which she chose because it was the day her family attended Mass together. Sepúlveda argued that as a devout Catholic, she believed God was rewarding her decision to kill herself.

“If it is from the spiritual plane, I am totally calm,” she said in a previous interview. “I am a Catholic person, I consider myself a very believer in God, but, I repeat, God does not want to see me suffer…. No parent wants to see their children suffer…. I know that the owner of life is God, yes, that is, nothing moves without His will. For many people I am very wrong, but I think He is allowing this; He is rewarding me in a certain way because I am not going to be bedridden.”

READ: Four psychiatrists speak out against assisted suicide: Legal doesn’t mean ethical

But the Friday night before her scheduled death, her lawyers were told that the Colombian Institute of Pain, or Incodol, ruled that her condition had improved, and she no longer qualified for euthanasia. The media coverage reportedly played a role, as footage of Sepúlveda laughing and eating out at restaurants spread around the world. Incodol further pointed out that she almost certainly has more than six months to live, and though she has ALS, it “does not completely affect the functionality of the patient in instrumental activities or daily life as the patient and her family had expressed in previous medical records.”

Her lawyers said they would appeal immediately, and it now appears that they were successful. According to El Pais, a judge has ordered Sepúlveda’s euthanasia and has given a clinic 48 hours to coordinate a date and time for her to die.

Should this euthanasia be permitted to happen, it will open a very dangerous door for people in Colombia. After her euthanasia was canceled, Sepúlveda’s son argued that her fight was “the fight of thousands of people.” And he’s correct that this decision will affect thousands: now, anyone who decides they are “suffering” can demand that a doctor kills them. Suicide is no longer a terrible tragedy to be avoided at any cost; it’s something to be accommodated, and that is the real tragedy.

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