Quito woman presents her case for assisted suicide to Ecuador’s Constitutional Court

Nov 21, 2023 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court heard arguments Monday in a Quito woman’s lawsuit to overturn a law that prevents assisted suicide. Forty-two-year-old Paola Roldán wants the country’s criminal code changed to allow those who suffer from painful, incurable diseases the option to “die with dignity.”

Paola Roldán, who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), asked the Constitutional Court on Monday for the right to “die with dignity.”

Under current law, anyone who assists in ending a patient’s life is subject to 10 to 13 years imprisonment.

Roldán, who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), asked the court earlier this year for an exception to the law but was denied. According to her attorney, Farith Simon, Roldán is now demanding that the law be changed for all who suffer from terminal illnesses and who want to end their lives.

“What we are asking is the legal access to assisted dying in which a doctor is allowed to end a patient’s life through intravenous injection,” says Simon. “We contend that it is inhumane to extend suffering when no remedy is available. In addition, we are arguing that current law violates the rights of human dignity and freedom spelled out in the constitution.”

More than 100 amicus curiae briefs were filed in the case, most supporting Roldán’s position, of which 20 were admitted by the court. The Catholic church of Ecuador is opposing a change in the law.

Only seven countries in the world allow assisted suicide, Colombia being the only one in Latin America. Several states and provinces in the U.S. and Australia allow it.

Roldán addressed the court at Monday’s hearing, explaining her desire to end her suffering.

In a separate letter to the court, she wrote:

With her husband at her bedside, Paola Roldán, gave a statement to the Constitutional Court Monday.

“How I live is painful, lonely and cruel. However, I don’t come forward to expose myself and to be pitied; that would be revictimizing. I have known what it is to live an intense, deep, broad and colorful life. I have lived a full life and I know that the only thing I deserve is a life and a death with dignity.

“Today I am here as Paola, but in reality, I represent hundreds of voices silenced by pain. I am the voice of Ana Maria, 35 years old, who has terminal breast cancer. I am the voice of Karina, who has glioblastoma multiforme. I am the voice of Daniel, an ALS patient. And for Nancy, also with ALS.

“Unlike several of them, I have had the privilege of access to the best palliative care, with state-of-the-art medications and technology, here and abroad, and I can say with absolute certainty that they are not enough, the pain is constant and relentless. And although for various circumstances I could tolerate physical pain, there is no palliative measure that allows me to go through the emotional pain. The pain of knowing that all my dreams have been diminished. The pain of having my son lying next to me with a fever and not being able to reach out my hand two centimeters to touch his forehead. Tell me what palliative care is my only alternative when, week after week, I am a conscious witness of every faculty that I am losing. What pill is there to alleviate the fact that I don’t know if next week I will even be able to continue to talk?

“You don’t know how humiliating it is for me to ask you to recognize my rights. You don’t know how outrageous it is for me that you, with your beliefs, your dogmas and your faith, which I respect in the exercise of private life, but not in the exercise of legislating in a secular country, that you have the power to legislate my destiny. This is not a fight to die — I know I’m going to die; this is the struggle of how to do it. I want the right to die in my husband’s arms, with dignity, having said my goodbye to my son, in love, peace and looking toward the light.”

The court is expected to rule on the case within a matter of weeks.

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