Martha Sepúlveda, the Colombian woman who made headlines for advocating for her own euthanasia even though she did not have a terminal illness, has died, the Washington Post reports. Sepúlveda reportedly got her wish, dying by euthanasia on Saturday. Her death came just hours after that of Victor Escobar, the first person in the country to publicly die by euthanasia. Like Sepúlveda, Escobar’s illness was not terminal.
Sepúlveda first made headlines in October when it was announced that she had a euthanasia appointment scheduled despite the fact that she did not have a terminal illness. She suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a condition that had left her unable to move her legs. While her medical situation reduced her quality of life, people with the condition can live for years and are not considered terminally ill. Still, her family and lawyers say that she lived in fear about living in constant pain and what the future might hold, so she sought to die.
Sepúlveda’s planned death was much publicized, but the courts rescinded their permission for her to be euthanized at the last minute after video footúage showed her laughing and eating out at restaurants. At that time, the courts decided that she clearly wasn’t suffering as much as she had depicted. However, Sepúlveda appealed, and the courts ended up allowing her euthanasia at a time of her choosing.
Despite Sepúlveda’s insistence to die, she also claimed to be a devout Catholic. “I know that God is the owner of life,” she told Colombia’s Caracol News. “But God doesn’t want to see me suffer.” She even requested that her family attend mass in the hours after her death. This type of thinking is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The pope and bishops across the globe have spoken out repeatedly against both euthanasia and assisted suicide as ideas against the dignity of life. One of Columbia’s bishops directly spoke out against Sepulveda’s death and asked the faithful to pray for her. “In accordance with our deepest Christian convictions, death cannot be the therapeutic answer to pain and suffering in any case,” Riohacha Bishop Francisco Antonio Ceballos said in a statement several months ago. “Martha, I invite you to calmly reflect on your decision.”
According to the Washington Post, Sepúlveda and her supporters believed that she should be able to die simply because she wanted to. “The fight to take control over the end of life continues and will not end until people in Colombia can access an assisted medical death according to their will and without barriers,” her lawyers said, according to the Washington Post.
However, allowing someone an assisted medical death simply because they wish it is a dangerous precedent. This kind of logic is no help to people who wish to end their lives because they are depressed, lonely, or sad — instead, it sends a message to everyone that life isn’t worth living or fighting for.
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