The World Today for October 20, 2021


Life and Death


Suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Martha Sepúlveda opted to die. She scheduled the procedure that would kill her known as euthanasia for Oct. 10 at the Colombian Pain Institute. A few days before, however,  the Institute canceled the procedure, telling the 51-year-old devout Catholic woman that her condition had improved, USA Today reported. Sepúlveda has filed a lawsuit against the Institute, arguing its decision is wrong.

The entire case has become a major public controversy in Colombia.

As the Washington Post wrote, Colombia recognizes the right to euthanasia for terminal patients and those experiencing intense suffering due to “bodily injury or serious and incurable disease,” a rare right that few countries have extended to patients.

ALS is a disease of the nervous system that is incurable, degenerative and eventually fatal but is not classified in Colombia as terminal. Sepúlveda’s legs are now paralyzed from the disease, but her condition is expected to worsen, NBC News explained.

“I may be a coward but I don’t want to suffer anymore, I’m tired,” Sepúlveda told Caracol TV, according to Agence France-Presse. “I have been very peaceful in my mind since I received the authorization for euthanasia. I laugh, I sleep better. God doesn’t want me to suffer like this.”

Sepúlveda’s son sat next to her during the interview. “Mom is going to die Sunday morning and she is happy,” he said.

Many Colombians, however, follow the teachings of Catholic Church leaders who view euthanasia as an offense against the dignity of human life. Bishop Francisco Ceballos of Riohacha called on Sepúlveda to reconsider her choice.

“Her affliction can find a transcendent meaning if it becomes a call to the love that heals, to the love that renews, to the love that forgives,” said the bishop in a public video message quoted in the Catholic News Agency.

As the debate rages, others around the world are working through similar issues.

French lawmakers are discussing legislation to allow for doctor-assisted suicide. Conservatives are seeking to torpedo the proposed law. Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain already have similar laws. Italy is also edging closer to allowing the practice, Euronews reported. Five Australian states have okayed voluntary euthanasia, the Associated Press wrote. The sixth state, New South Wales, almost adopted the same measure recently.

Meanwhile, the March for Life against abortion and euthanasia is still one of the largest annual rallies in Germany, as Deutsche Welles noted.

Life itself and one’s role in it is rarely so squarely the topic.

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