Is the world approaching the legalization of euthanasia?

Most countries in the world are not yet approaching a discussion about euthanasia that allows patients to decide on the way they wish to die.

Person filling a syringe with medication.

Person filling a syringe with medication. / Reference image / Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: ¿Está el mundo acercándose a la legalización de la eutanasia?

On September 26, the decision of the Constitutional Court of Italy that allows euthanasia to patients whose disease and pain is irreversible was known.

This decision is a milestone today. In the first place, because Europe is one of the continents that, despite being very progressive in other aspects, in terms of euthanasia has not made great progress. On the other hand, Italy itself is a country of great Catholic influence, not to mention that the Vatican makes part of Italy.

In the world, countries that have legal and regulated euthanasia under that particular name can be counted on the fingers. The Netherlands was the first in Europe to legalize it, which was later joined by others such as Belgium and Luxembourg. Some others allow certain types of "assisted death" and others vary depending on the administration of the shift. In others, it is not legalized but not penalized either. In any case, it is a subject that still requires a lot of debate.

In America, the only countries in which it is allowed and regulated under the name of Euthanasia is in Canada and Colombia, plus some states in the United States.

Assisted suicide or voluntary completion?

The procedure as such, which includes the assistance of a doctor to inject a fluid that ends up stopping the heart - without any pain - remains a taboo subject. On a global level, it is also recognized as assisted suicide. This term, according to Gustavo Quintana, a doctor who practices euthanasia in Colombia, makes the progress of the practice even more difficult, since the fact that it contains the word “suicide” includes a pejorative connotation.

Also read: Gustavo Quintana: A doctor between life and death

For Quintana, the correct term should be a voluntary culmination, because, just as everyone has the free will to live as they want, they should also have it when they die. This, always taking into account valid medical and psychiatric assistance.

This same problem, which ends up being only technicalities of language, occurs throughout the world and is what, in some cases, has slowed the practice under the name of euthanasia. For this reason, assisted suicide is not conceivable in many countries, but a dignified death is conceivable.

However, dignified death does not only refer to euthanasia. In the case of most countries, this means that the patient can decide if he does not want to live artificially (for example, if they want to remove equipment that keeps certain organs functioning).

Months ago, the wife of Frenchman Vincent Lambert was struggling to be able to practice euthanasia, after 10 years of being in a vegetative state. This rekindled the debate of dignified death in France and became a headache between trials and appeals, which made the case even appear before the UN. Finally, it was approved to finish her treatment and, although she was not euthanized, she was allowed to die by also removing food and hydration.

Euthanasia in Latin America

Colombia is one of the most advanced countries in this area worldwide, as it is not only regulated but also has specifications for certain cases, such as in children under 7 years old, which represent an even more complex and little touched debate. After euthanasia was decriminalized in 1997, in 2015 it ended up allowing itself, becoming the first - and so far unique - Latin American country to allow the procedure.

The regulations that allow access to this account have three main points:

  1. That the patient is a terminally ill patient.
  2. Let them express their desire not to want to live.
  3. Have a doctor registered in the method of not causing pain.

Meanwhile, other Latin American countries are just beginning the debate, but they are far from achieving regulation.

Also read: Mexico and Uruguay advocate dialogue in Venezuela

Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico are one of the few, slowly starting to take steps towards the legalization of what is called dignified death, although they are still far from the euthanasia procedure.

These countries have different regulations in which dignified death is allowed. As mentioned before, in these cases the patient may request that he no longer receive medical assistance that prolongs their lives, which would end sooner or later on his death. Under different names, such as the "law of good death", the patient can choose whether or not to undergo treatments or machines to save his life.

Although the discussion of euthanasia in these countries has not been addressed, Argentina has been emphatic that this procedure will not be discussed as such.