Stricken Colombian woman may choose to die, court rules

Bogota (AFP) – A Colombian judge Thursday ruled that a severely ill woman who had her euthanasia cancelled at the last minute, may reschedule a procedure to die "with dignity."


Martha Sepulveda, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable degenerative disease ALS, had been due to die by euthanasia on October 10, but a medical committee halted the procedure citing her improving health.

Though ALS progressively paralyzes the body to the point of death, the decline can take many years, meaning Sepulveda would have become the first non terminally-ill Colombian to be granted the right to have their life terminated under a July Constitutional Court ruling.

"I may be a coward, but I don't want to suffer anymore, I'm tired," the 51-year-old had explained to Caracol TV a few days before the scheduled procedure.

"I have been very peaceful in my mind since I received the authorization for euthanasia. I laugh, I sleep better.

Her legs have been paralyzed by the disease and she is in constant pain.

Shortly before she was to be put to death, Colombia's Incodol pain institute called a halt, saying her life expectancy was longer than initially thought.

Sepulveda's lawyers said she would sue for "cruel and degrading treatment" in violation of the July ruling that had removed the link between estimated life expectancy and the right to euthanasia.

On Thursday, Judge Omar Vasquez ruled in Sepulveda's favor and ordered that she be helped to die "with dignity."

The ruling can be appealed.

Colombia is the only Latin American country where euthanasia is legal, but in practice, the procedure can be difficult to access in the majority-Catholic society.

Official figures say 157 people have been euthanized in Colombia since 1997.