Ecuador’s Constitutional Court legalizes euthanasia

The Constitutional Court marks a milestone in Ecuador. This Wednesday it ruled in favor of decriminalizing euthanasia, and declaring the constitutional right of those who “because of serious and irreversible physical injury or intense suffering resulting from a serious and incurable disease” to have an assisted death. Request process. The judges’ decision comes into effect immediately, explains Farith Simon, one of the lawyers handling the case. “Although it does not accept all our arguments about dignified death, the Court accepted the main point that people have the right to their personal autonomy and the right to make decisions about a dignified life, not just a subsistence life. Of living,” he said. adds up.

With seven votes in favor and two against, the Court decided to declare the conditional constitutionality of Article 144 of the Comprehensive Biological Criminal Code, which refers to simple homicide, which prohibits doctors from practicing euthanasia. Allows. “The right of conscientious objection is recognized for doctors who do not want to do so, but if a doctor does not want to do so, he must immediately transfer him to another doctor who is in a position to help the patient,” They say. Simon.

In August 2023, Paola Roldan Espinosa, a 42-year-old woman, approached the court to request legalization. By then it had been three years since he learned of his fatal diagnosis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease that affects and destroys the nerve cells that control muscles that execute voluntary movements. Seven months later, she was bedridden, unable to move. ALS is a progressive disease that worsens over time and in most cases leads to death due to respiratory failure. Thus began his fight to decriminalize euthanasia, bringing together three lawyers who supported his cause.

The judges’ ruling asked the Ombudsman “to prepare, within six months, a bill regulating euthanasia procedures, in accordance with the provisions of the judgment.” This document will be debated by the National Assembly, with a maximum period of 12 months imposed. approve it. Furthermore, it calls on the Ministry of Health to issue a regulation that regulates the procedure for the application of voluntary active euthanasia “In the light of technical criteria and in compliance with what is stated in the decision, regulations that will be valid until the approval “Related Law”, which should be delivered within two months.

To a large extent, the Court granted Paola’s request, allowing that a dignified death can be accessed under two parameters: the person expresses their clear, free and informed consent, and if they cannot do so, So it happens through their representative. And the request for an active euthanasia process responds to a situation of acute suffering resulting from a serious and irreversible physical injury or a serious and incurable disease. “The Court’s decision is important because it recognizes the right of many patients and expands the margin of freedom for people to be able to make decisions in these circumstances, without forcing them to suffer excessively and for a long time. Will be done,” he added. .Simon.

With this decision, Ecuador joins other countries like Colombia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Canada, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand and five Australian states that have decriminalized euthanasia.

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