Man who shot colleagues allowed to die by assisted suicide before his trial

euthanasia, assisted suicide

Last December, a gunman in the city of Tarragona, Spain, shot and injured three of his colleagues. But before the victims could see the accused face justice in a trial, a Spanish court paved the way for his death this past Tuesday by assisted suicide. 

Eugen Sabau, 46, known in local news media outlets as “the Tarragona Gunman,” was injured in a shootout with police after he fled the scene of his alleged crime. His injuries left him with a severe spinal cord injury, unable to move from the neck down, and required the amputation of one of his legs. The incident left him in chronic pain and unable to use painkillers. 

In June, the prison hospital where Sabau was being held informed the court it was preparing to euthanize Sabau at his request on account of his injuries, according to Spanish News Today. Sabau’s victims immediately opposed the measure. José Natonio Bitos, the lawyer for a policeman injured in the shootout, petitioned the court to immediately cease any activity towards administering euthanasia before he could face trial. “A murderer, or presumed murderer in this case, cannot avoid either trial or conviction through euthanasia,” Bitos said. 

“It was not about preventing euthanasia, but we did want the victims to have a fair trial,” Bitos added, according to BBC News.

Despite the complaints of the victims, two courts agreed that delaying Sabau’s death, given his current suffering, violated his “dignity and rights.” Bitos was unsuccessful in getting a stay through the European Human Rights Court, and on Tuesday evening Sabau died by assisted suicide, according to the Washington Post

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Sabau’s assisted suicide came under the auspices of the euthanasia law enacted in 2021 making Spain the fourth European country to legalize assisted suicide. Under the Spanish euthanasia law, people can request euthanasia for “serious and incurable” medical conditions that cause “unbearable suffering,” as BBC News reported

As of July 2022, nearly a year after the law came into effect, 180 people had taken their own lives in Spain, as Live Action News reported – a development that one official argued made Spain “more humane, more just, and more decent.” But as Bishop Luis Arguello, secretary-general and spokesman of the Bishops Conference of Spain, has asserted, “causing death can never provide a solution to problems of suffering.”

Just as euthanasia laws worldwide always result in a slippery slope in which society’s most vulnerable are threatened, Bishop Arguello argued that Spain’s euthanasia law will lead to “added pressure” on some who may feel they are “a burden to their families.” 

Bitos and others expressed concern about the way the case was handled, pointing out that it could set a dangerous precedent. Spanish Constitutional law expert Ramon Riu told news outlets that the ruling “is a precedent and courts will certainly take it into account in the future but they will not be obliged to follow the same criteria,” according to the Washington Post. Bitos said that it would be difficult for those injured by Sabau to claim compensation without a trial. He also said that Sabau never expressed remorse for his action. 

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