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Martha Sepúlveda: a judge in Colombia orders that the patient's euthanasia be rescheduled.

A judge in Colombia on Wednesday revoked the suspension of euthanasia that Martha Sepúlveda, a 51-year-old woman with a degenerative disease, had planned to die on October 10, should receive.

Sepúlveda was to be the first person in Colombia who, without suffering a terminal illness, would receive euthanasia. But the Colombian Pain Institute (IPS Incodol), the private clinic that treats Sepúlveda, announced the suspension of the procedure 36 hours before it happened.

The case has generated a wide debate in the Latin American country about the right to opt for assisted death.

This Wednesday, the head of Court 20 of the city of Medellín ordered IPS Incodol "to comply with the provisions of the interdisciplinary scientific committee to die with dignity" in its August 6 ruling.

In that resolution, a panel of specialists determined that the patient "meets the requirements to exercise her right to die with dignity through euthanasia," the judge stressed.

Such ruling had been invalidated by IPS Incodol, which "unanimously concluded to cancel the proceeding" by determining that "the termination criterion is not met as had been considered in the first committee" that evaluated his case.

The judge considered this Wednesday that such a decision "violated the fundamental rights to die with dignity, to a dignified life, to the free development of the personality and human dignity of Martha Sepúlveda."

The patient must now have a new date for the procedure to be performed.

A controversial case

Sepúlveda has suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since 2018, an incurable disease that, according to her family, turned her life into torment.

For this reason, the 51-year-old patient went to a high court to approve euthanasia.

The procedure was decriminalized in Colombia in 1997, but it did not become law until 2015. Since then, 157 procedures have been carried out.

According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, the patient must have a terminal illness; consider that life is no longer worthy as a result of the disease and express consent in a "clear, informed, complete and precise" manner.

In addition, aid for dying must be provided by "a medical professional" with the authorization of a "scientific-interdisciplinary committee".

However, Colombia also has a figure called freedom of conscience that allows doctors not to perform the procedure if it goes against their personal beliefs.

But last July, the country's Constitutional Court extended the right to a dignified death to those who suffer "intense physical or mental suffering" due to an incurable injury or illness.

And that of Martha Sepúlveda had become the first case in which euthanasia is authorized in a patient who does not have a terminal illness.

The judge ordered that the date and time for euthanasia must be determined within 48 hours.


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