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Euthanasia is practiced on a non-terminal patient in Colombia

His living condition was not favorable, and he was unable to fend for himself.

Veronica Morao
4 min read
Euthanasia is practiced on a non-terminal patient in Colombia
Víctor Escobar, first Latin American to receive euthanasia

The Colombian patient, Víctor Escobar, experienced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in addition to diabetes and hypertension and other diseases. On Friday, he became the first Colombian in which his decision of "a dignified death" is a reality, by achieving euthanasia.

Before being admitted to a clinic in Cali, he said goodbye assuring that the objective of patients like him, that of winning the fight, was fulfilled. This decision opened the doors to other patients who come after him and who, at this moment, are asking for a dignified death.

The man presented problems speaking and moving, in several interviews that they carried out in recent days.

Escobar is the first Colombian citizen to receive this process, since the Constitutional Court approved it in July for people with non-terminal illnesses.

The Court's decision, which adjusts the "mercy killing" of the Penal Code and which recently considered penalties of up to 54 months in prison, repeals that first need for the person who requires it to have a terminal illness, and does so encouraged by the limits that currently persist in the country to practice this right.

Luis Giraldo, Escobar's legal advisor, published a video on social networks assuring that for Colombia, this is a moment of utmost importance, since Víctor Escobar, being a non-terminal patient, will be the first to receive euthanasia in Latin America.

Patient battle

Escobar was a transporter for many years. He suffered from COPD and different diseases, for example, the eventual results of a cardiovascular accident, extreme osteoarthritis, depression.

These diseases gradually weakened his living condition and caused him to depend on another person, since he could not fend for himself.

Two years earlier, the man began looking for a method to be euthanized, but encountered obstacles, such as clinical centers that denied the procedure, as he was not a terminal patient.

However, The panorama changed with the decision of the Court and, after a difficult legal battle in which he was even denied euthanasia once again. A Cali court asked the Medical Service Provider Company (EPS) Coomeva to carry out the procedure, as happened today in a center whose name was not revealed.

In his last days, Escobar enjoyed the league title of his favorite team, Deportivo Cali, who even received it to meet the players in October of last year.

The decision made is that his organs be delivered to patients who require them, it was his wish before he passed away.

Progress

The woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Martha Sepúlveda's case, was what caused Escobar and his family to fear that the procedure could not be performed. In Sepúlveda's case, he was refused euthanasia hours before the process began, last October.

The case of Martha Sepúlveda was known in September through a News Caracol report, who told of her wish to die at age 51.

The Colombian Institute of Pain (Incodol), hours before the methodology was carried out, chose to desist from the procedure, since it had an updated opinion of the patient's health and evolution, which characterizes that it does not comply with the models of purpose as it had been thought, as indicated in a statement.

The judge appointed a rescheduling of the procedure, at the end of October, which has not yet been carried out.

Euthanasia in Colombia

The main country in Latin America to decriminalize euthanasia was Colombia. It is one of the few countries in the world where it is legitimate, after the Constitutional Court, in 1997, endorsed a dignified death as a right to terminal illness in the case of the patient experiencing a lot of pain, requested it voluntarily and a specialist will take care of it.

This right did not begin to be practiced until 2015, despite being legal since 1997, and the methods actually still face problems. As the case that it is only carried out in certain cities and certain medical centers.

The Ministry of Health indicated that, from April 2015 to October 15, 2021, only 178 euthanasia procedures were performed.

2021 was the year with the most euthanasias performed, with 47 techniques in total, according to data from the Laboratory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (DescLab).

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