Rights v. Justice

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Spanish authorities euthanized a former security guard this week, who was facing trial for wounding three people in his former workplace, a case that has put Spain’s assisted suicide law in the spotlight, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Late defendant Eugen Sabau submitted an application for assisted suicide in June, six months after a shootout with police in the northeastern city of Tarragona that left him paralyzed.

His victims said Sabau – since known as “the Tarragona gunman” – should be kept alive until after the trial, but two Spanish courts ruled in the defendant’s favor.

A Tarragona court said that the quadriplegic man was suffering unbearable pain and that delaying his death until after the trial violated the dignity and rights of the accused.

Despite the rulings, José Antonio Bitos, a lawyer for the injured police officer, noted that the court’s decision set a precedent for future similar cases. He added that other defendants facing similar circumstances could exploit the law to avoid lengthy prison sentences.

Even so, legal analyst Ramón Riu acknowledged that while other courts will take the previous case into account, they “will not be obliged to follow the same criteria.”

In March 2021, Spain became the fourth nation in Europe to legalize physician-assisted suicide for persons suffering from terminal illnesses and other intolerable long-term conditions.

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