Colombian woman will be the first to die under the country’s liberalized euthanasia law

Oct 6, 2021 | 11 comments

A 51-year-old Colombian woman who suffers what she describes as “indescribable pain” will be the first person to take advantage of the country’s law allowing euthanasia for those who do not have a terminal illness. Martha Sepúlveda, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is unable to walk or feed herself and requires large doses of medication to endure the pain. In a statement, she said she will end her life October 10.

Martha Sepúlveda

Following a number of legal challenges, Colombia’s Constitutional Court cleared the way for Sepúlveda’s right to die on July 22. Among those challenging the law was the Catholic Church which claimed the law poses “a grave attack against the dignity of the ill and against the sanctity of the right to life.” The church also said the publicly sanctioned euthanasia violates the country’s constitution.

Although doctors say that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is often considered terminal, Sepúlveda’s case is different and she could live for many more years. They say, however, that the degree of pain she suffers is “extraordinary.”

“God does not want to see me like this, he does not expect me to live like this, and it is his will that I end my suffering and begin my eternal life in peace,” Sepúlveda said in her statement.

Although euthanasia has been legal in Colombia since 1997, it applied only to those with terminal illnesses until the law was revised last year to include those living with “catastrophic pain.”

“I am much calmer since I received the court’s authorization to die,” Sepúlveda said. “I laugh more and sleep better and I feel like a lucky woman,” she said in an interview. “It is from a spiritual place that I face my mortal end. I am Catholic and am a strong believer in God but, I repeat, God does not want me to suffer like this and I believe he does not want anyone else to suffer like this either.”

She is spending her final days with family and close friends, reminiscing and enjoying her favorite food and drink. She says her decision has been much harder on her mother than on her. “Mom finally understands why I choose to die and supports me and that support means so much.”

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