By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
In 1997 Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that “the State cannot oppose the decision of an individual who does not wish to continue living and who requests help to die when suffering from a terminal illness that causes unbearable pain, incompatible with his idea of dignity”.
Since that time, euthanasia has been technically legal but rarely done in Colombia.
An article by Merco Press reports that Colombia’s Health Ministry has set out guidelines for euthanasia– Resolution 971. According to the Merco Press article:
Colombia’s Health Ministry has issued Resolution 971, setting out the guidelines regarding the carrying out of euthanasia procedures, which has sparked some controversy among national lawmakers.
According to the document from the health authorities of the only country in South America so far to have legalized the right to death with dignity, the patient must make this request directly (verbal or written) or indirectly, through an advance directive document (DVA). The request must be voluntary, informed, unequivocal and persistent.
The resolution states that patients wishing to exercise their right to die with dignity will have to submit ”a clinical condition at the end of life, (…) present secondary suffering, be in a position to express the request directly.”
Once the patient makes the request, the doctor must immediately include it in the medical record and activate the interdisciplinary scientific committee that will study the request within the first 24 hours.
The document also establishes that “health providers (IPS) that have enabled the medium or high complexity hospitalization service for oncological hospitalization, institutional care for chronic patients or home care for chronic patients, that have protocols of management for palliative care, will make up within each entity a scientific-interdisciplinary committee for the right to die with dignity through euthanasia.”
The committee must study the applications within the first 10 days and will be made up of a lawyer, a doctor with the speciality of the pathology suffered by the patient and a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, and when the committee is formed, it must be declared that none is a conscientious objector.
According to the Merco Press account, “Senator Armando Benedetti, who has repeatedly pushed for regulating the right to die with dignity, celebrated the news but believes there are still some shortcomings.
“The euthanasia regulation made by the Ministry of Health seems to be a great advance; euthanasia currently exists, its regulation is missing and this is a good attempt,” he said.
Senator John Milton Rodríguez said that he will file legal actions against Resolution 971.
“We reject the resolution where the Ministry of Health legitimizes euthanasia in Colombia, there is no constitutional right to the supposed dignified death, what does exist is the right to life. The State has the responsibility to remove the suffering of the human being, but not to end the life of the human being who suffers, therefore we will take legal action to defend life,” Rodríguez said.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.