High Court legalizes euthanasia in Ecuador, orders Assembly and health officials to draft guidelines

Feb 7, 2024 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday decriminalized euthanasia and ordered lawmakers and health officials to draft rules and regulations that would allow the procedure. Judges voted 7 to 2 in a decision likely to draw protests from the Catholic church and other groups.

Paola Roldán

The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by a terminally ill woman diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ASL or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, who had argued that she should be allowed to end her suffering and die with dignity.

In Latin America, Colombia is the only country to decriminalize euthanasia, while Uruguay and Chile are debating the matter.

The lawsuit in Ecuador was filed by Paola Roldán of Quito in August 2023. She argued that a death with dignity is a right of “those who suffer and have suffered serious or incurable diseases.” She said they should be allowed to “freely and voluntarily to end their life” to stop “intense physical or emotional pain or suffering.” She added that her husband supports her wishes.

In his challenge to Ecuador’s Organic Comprehensive Criminal Code, Roldan’s defense attorney Ramiro Ávila argued that assisting a terminally ill patient who wishes to die should not be considered homicide, as the law currently states. “This is not murder but an act of kindness, helping someone who wants to end their suffering,” he said.

Roldán, 42, began experiencing symptoms of ASL, which weakens muscles and impairs physical functions, in 2020.

Although the court gave a time frame of 12 months for the development of procedures to implement its decision, Ávila said that Roldan’s desire to end her life can be carried out at her discretion. “The court has decriminalized euthanasia, which means that Paola’s wishes can be carried out on her schedule,” he said.

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