Ecuador became the second in Latin America to decriminalize euthanasia after Colombiafollowing a case of a patient with an incurable and fatal disease.
The Constitutional Court ruled this Wednesday – with seven votes of its nine judges – in favor of doctors being able to help a sick person die without going to jail. The penalty for homicide “cannot be applied to the doctor who performs an active euthanasia procedure in order to preserve the rights of a dignified life and the free development of the patient’s personality”the highest constitutional court said in a statement.
The case that led to the decision was that of Paola Roldan43 years old, who has been suffering from a amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)an illness degenerative and painful. The woman filed in August a demand against article 144 of the Ecuadorian penal code, which considers procedure like a homicide and provides for a prison sentence of between 10 and 13 years.
Euthanasia still needs to be regulated
The ruling agreed with him on the “unconstitutionality” of the section, although the Ministry of Health has yet to present a bill to Congress to regulate euthanasia.
Farith Simon, one of Roldán’s lawyers, indicated on the X network that “the sentence is IMMEDIATELY enforceable”.
In Latin America, Only Colombia decriminalized euthanasia in 1997. The parliaments of Uruguay and Chile are discussing projects in this regard, while in Mexico there is the so-called “good death” law, which authorizes the patient or his family to request that life not be prolonged by artificial means.
The Court of Ecuador, a traditionally conservative nation with a Catholic majority, evaluated Roldán’s allegations and explained that “It would be unreasonable to impose an obligation on anyone experiencing this situation to stay alive”.
“Every human being can make free and informed decisions when their personal development is affected, which in the opinion of this Judiciary includes the option to end intense suffering caused by serious and irreversible bodily injury or serious and incurable illness“he added.
At the request of the court, The Ministry of Health must develop regulations for active euthanasia processes within two months and the Ombudsman’s Office will draft a bill in six months that must be approved by Congress within a maximum of one year.
The constitutional body began in November to debate the request for “legalize euthanasia as a means for people with serious and incurable illnesses and injuries to exercise their right to a dignified death”according to Roldán’s defense.
The words of Paola Roldán, the ALS patient
The woman – who remains bedridden – intervened via telematics. “I want to rest in peace, calm and peaceful”he stated then.
With a permanent tube that supplies him with oxygen and a broken voice, he added: “I know that the only thing I deserve is life and death with dignity” and that “I have brushed against death so many times”.
“Several times I thought that I would not be able to see the fruits of this demandlike someone who plants a tree so that someone else can sit under its shadow,” Roldán said on Friday on X, after learning that his request was in the final stage of analysis.
Ramiro Ávila, another of her lawyers, indicated before the magistrates that “Paola opened the doors of her house, her life and her heart to allow us to specify the scope of a right necessary for hundreds of people, who “Today in Ecuador they are suffering serious physical and emotional suffering.”
“He has become the voice of those people who in Ecuador represent the fourth cause of suicide”he noted in reference to those who suffer from incurable diseases.
During the constitutional debate, Roldán posted on his social networks messages from opponents of euthanasia such as “If you want to end your life, you are free to do so (…) There are several ways to die, a rope, a pill“.