How is assisted death regulated in the world and what procedures can be applied?
When a terminally ill patient consciously decides to put an end to his life, he may encounter enough ethical obstacles that impede the right to die with dignity. In the world, only a few countries allow assisted practices to end the life of a person and a few others have opened the debate in Congress to decriminalize euthanasia. Should the issue continue in the hands of the law?
On May 10, a 104-year-old Australian scientist made the decision to die by listening to Beethoven's 9th symphony through assisted suicide. Although David Goodall did not suffer from any terminal illness or serious health problems, the natural limitations due to his advanced age led him to make the decision to end his life in a conscious way. However, Googall had to travel from Australia to Switzerland to perform the procedure with the help of professionals.
This act that circled the planet reopened the debate in the world about the legalization of dignified death, but the discussion is divided between those who impose religion and the law over the fundamental rights of the human being and those who they defend the freedom to decide their end.
Differences between euthanasia, assisted suicide and terminal sedation
There are different methods that can be applied at the moment of ending life of a terminally ill patient, but these are usually confused or vary according to the regulations of each country. Here we explain:
Physically assisted suicide: It occurs when a doctor tells the patient what drug to consume to die. This is allowed only in Switzerland and it was the procedure that the 104-year-old scientist performed.
Suicide not assisted: This modality is considered irregular and is condemned by law throughout the world. It happens when a person decides to end his life without medical assistance but consciously; who are involved could be tried for homicide.
Euthanasia: It is when a medical team administers the drugs to the person who wishes to die because he suffers from a terminal illness. It is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and some US states.
Terminal Sedation: This technique is a type of palliative treatment where experts provide medications with a strong tranquilizing effect that can lead to death. It is used to eliminate the suffering or pain of a person both physical and mental and is allowed under strict regulation in Spain and some places in Europe.
In Latin America dying with dignity is illegal
Because of its religious influences and ethical-political codes, Latin America is one of the regions of the world with the greatest restriction to end the life of a human being in a dignified manner. Although steps have been taken towards the decriminalization of practices such as euthanasia, it still remains a controversial issue in which little progress is made in most countries.
In 2015, Colombia became the first Latin American country to legally practice euthanasia. The case was starred by a 76-year-old man with cancer who suffered heavy dollars and had lost part of his face because of the disease. The patient was supported by a protocol prepared by the Ministry of Health by order of the Constitutional Court.
In May 2016, the Colombian Ministry of Health published a resolution that regulates the procedure and allows euthanasia only in patients of legal age, with terminal illnesses and who have previously expressed their desire to end their suffering in a radical manner.
In nations such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, medical suicide and euthanasia are prohibited, but they give people the possibility to decide whether or not to continue with medical treatments administered to prolong life. Mexico is covered under the same regulations, however, bills have been introduced to decriminalize these methods of termination of life. However, none has managed to change article 166 bis 21 of the General Law on Health that defines euthanasia as homicide by charity.
The other Latin American countries do not have regulations that endorse euthanasia and include in their Criminal Code any of the practices such as "pious homicide".
It seems ironic that those who oppose euthanasia do so under the "right to life." They indicate that this practice is "playing at being God", transgressing with the laws of nature, and using science against man. However, for defenders, dignified death should be an innate right, unmovable before any law and an option that should not be judged. On which side of the discussion are you?
Latin American Post | Krishna Jaramillo
Translated from "Muerte digna: Cuando las regulaciones se imponen sobre la voluntad"