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Colombia's Health Ministry sets out guidelines for euthanasia, sparks controversies

Tuesday, July 13th 2021 - 08:41 UTC
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“As it is it can take a long time to apply euthanasia,” Benedetti said “As it is it can take a long time to apply euthanasia,” Benedetti said

Colombia's Health Ministry has issued Resolution 971, setting out the guidelines regarding the carrying out of euthanasia procedures, which has sparked some controversy among national lawmakers.

According to the document from the health authorities of the only country in South America so far to have legalized the right to death with dignity, the patient must make this request directly (verbal or written) or indirectly, through an advance directive document (DVA). The request must be voluntary, informed, unequivocal and persistent.

The resolution states that patients wishing to exercise their right to die with dignity will have to submit ”a clinical condition at the end of life, (...) present secondary suffering, be in a position to express the request directly.”

Once the patient makes the request, the doctor must immediately include it in the medical record and activate the interdisciplinary scientific committee that will study the request within the first 24 hours.

The document also establishes that “health providers (IPS) that have enabled the medium or high complexity hospitalization service for oncological hospitalization, institutional care for chronic patients or home care for chronic patients, that have protocols of management for palliative care, will make up within each entity a scientific-interdisciplinary committee for the right to die with dignity through euthanasia.”

The committee must study the applications within the first 10 days and will be made up of a lawyer, a doctor with the speciality of the pathology suffered by the patient and a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, and when the committee is formed, it must be declared that none is a conscientious objector.

Senator Armando Benedetti, who has repeatedly pushed for regulating the right to die with dignity, celebrated the news but believes there are still some shortcomings.

“The euthanasia regulation made by the Ministry of Health seems to be a great advance; euthanasia currently exists, its regulation is missing and this is a good attempt,” he said.

”It seems good to me that the doctor can make a conscientious objection, but the fault lies in the creation of committees within clinics and hospitals to decide because as it is it can take a long time to apply euthanasia.”

On the other hand, Christian and conservative sectors in Congress rejected that the Government had issued a directive on euthanasia. Senator John Milton Rodríguez announced that he will file legal actions against this resolution.

“We reject the resolution where the Ministry of Health legitimizes euthanasia in Colombia, there is no constitutional right to the supposed dignified death, what does exist is the right to life. The State has the responsibility to remove the suffering of the human being, but not to end the life of the human being who suffers, therefore we will take legal action to defend life,” Rodríguez said.

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