Colombia recently became the first Latin American country and one of only four worldwide to make euthanasia legal for terminally ill patients.
On April 20, Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria announced the health protocols necessary to authorise euthanasia in hospitals across Colombia when a terminally ill adult patient says they want to ‘die with dignity’.
The measures make Colombia part of an exclusive list where euthanasia is legal – along with the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The measures were put in place after a Constitutional Court ruling in February.
The Court originally ruled in favour of euthanasia back in 1997, but, no doctor would carry it out because of a separate law banning mercy killings, with jail terms of between six months and three years.
The Health Ministry’s new protocol finally puts the court ruling into practice, with strict safeguards, according to reports.
In the case of unconscious patients, family members need to prove that their loved one has expressed their desire to end their life, be it in writing or by means of audio and video.
The measure applies to legal adults only, not minors.
The decision by the Health Ministry has sparked outrage, especially among members of the Catholic Church, who staunchly oppose the practice.
Speaking to The Global Post, Carmenza Ochoa, director of Bogota’s Right to a Dignified Death Foundation – a group that has been working on passing this law for 30 years – said, “this is a great step forward, not just for Colombia, but for Latin America.
“It’s a question of compassion. If an adult who is suffering and dying requests euthanasia, why should others have the right to deny them?”