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Colombian dies publicly due to new euthanasia policy

The man died in the city of Cali in the presence of doctors, his lawyer said on Twitter. (Representative)

Cali, Colombia:

Victor Escobar decided to die and do so publicly, becoming one of the first Latin Americans to end their life without suffering from a fatal disease, under a groundbreaking court ruling in Colombia.

Hours before he died on Friday, Escobar, 60, celebrated what he called victory in his two-year battle with a lung disease that left him unable to breathe on his own.

“Little by little it becomes everyone’s turn. So I don’t say goodbye but rather, see you soon. And little by little we will end with God,” said Escobar, who is a practicing Catholic, in a video sent to News . organizations.

He died in the city of Cali in the presence of doctors, his lawyer said on Twitter.

The latest footage of him alive shows him smiling and surrounded by his family. He was sedated and then given a fatal injection.

Colombia decriminalized assisted death in 1997, and in July 2021, a high court extended this “right to a dignified death” to those who do not suffer from a terminal illness.

It is the first Latin American country to take the plunge and one of the few in the world, despite being predominantly Catholic. The church is categorically opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“I was already feeling sick. I felt my lungs were not obeying me,” Escobar told AFP in October as he led the final chapter of his legal battle.

No terminal

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease left him in a wheelchair and suffering from spasms that tore his body apart.

His family supported the idea of ​​euthanasia.

In Europe, only Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Spain have legalized euthanasia.

Colombia may have joined this list, but access to the procedure is not always easy.

As of mid-2021, patients like Escobar – with chronic illnesses and a life expectancy of more than six months – could not be euthanized.

“They were forced to live in undignified conditions against their will,” said Monica Giraldo of an NGO called Foundation for the Right to a Death with Dignity.

She said that since the court ruling on euthanasia, three people with non-terminal illnesses have used it to end their lives, but Escobar is the first to do so with cameras on so the public can see it. be witness.

“I want my story to be known because it creates a path for patients like me, patients with degenerative diseases, to have an open door to seek rest,” Escobar said.

Escobar said he fell ill after working for years with exposure to asbestos, an insulating material now known to cause cancer.

Permission to die

In October last year, a panel from the Imbanaco clinic rejected Escobar’s request for euthanasia, after two years of previous petitions that were also rejected.

The committee argued that Escobar was not terminally ill and that there were still ways to try to alleviate his suffering.

Days earlier in another city, Medellin, Martha Sepulveda, 51, with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also had her death request canceled at the last minute on the grounds that she was not terminally ill.

Giraldo said hospitals sometimes refuse euthanasia requests for “ideological positions” or abandon them at the last minute for legal reasons.

But Escobar appealed to court and won. He chose to die on Jan. 7 – a Friday, so it would be easy for those close to him to attend his funeral on the weekend, his lawyer said.

“I am suffering from my illnesses and I am suffering seeing my family suffering because of me,” Escobar said in October, breathlessly.

The courts also allowed Sepulveda to die. Like Escobar, she had made her case public.

The government says at least 157 people have chosen euthanasia since the July 2021 legal change.

The Giraldo Foundation is currently working with five people seeking assistance in suicide, two of whom are in non-terminal conditions.

Shortly before he died, Escobar said that God does not like to see people in pain.

“I don’t think God will punish me for trying to stop suffering,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)

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