The euthanasia of people with incurable diseases or with disabling chronic illnesses became legal in Spain since last Friday (25). As a result, Spain becomes the seventh country in the world to allow euthanasia. But the legislation is criticized by opponents and even supporters because it could lead terminal patients not to have the choice to live, forcing them to choose death.
The Spanish Parliament had approved a law in March that authorizes the abbreviation of life, which is expected to enter into force on June 25th. But opponents and even part of the law’s defenders are still debating whether the legislation will eventually lead terminal patients to, in despair, opt for euthanasia even if there is an alternative.
The warning is that this could happen because there is a lack of investments in palliative medical care to alleviate the pain of terminal and chronic patients – a right that, if assured, would allow them to choose to live with some comfort until natural death.
The discussion, therefore, is that the Euthanasia Law, without these investments in palliative care, would not in fact allow critically ill patients the right to choose. And that, on the other hand, it would “unobligate” the State to invest resources in palliative care.
“It seems to me a step back in society and a step back in investing in something that seems essential to me, which is palliative care”, says Águeda Rey Tobalín, who is 53 years old, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and for whom death is part of life and cannot be denied.
Palliative care in Spain is far from having the same availability as in other European countries where euthanasia is also regulated. “We know that there are about 75,000 Spanish patients who die each year without access to a palliative care service,” says doctor Marcos Gómez Santos, who specializes in this topic.
Law will be questioned in court
Parallel to the discussion on palliative care, pro-life associations – such as HazteOir.org and Derecho a Vivir – maintain the campaign against the Euthanasia Law.
And the new law will have its unconstitutionality questioned in court by the Popular Party (PP) and by the legend Vox, who voted against the bill because they consider that it attacks a fundamental right, that of life.
“The Constitutional Court now has in its hands the obligation to guarantee the right to life, and the government to develop a palliative care law that protects life,” said Rosana Ribera de Gracia, spokeswoman for Derecho a Vivir.
Euthanasia began to be discussed in Spain with a real case and help from Hollywood
The discussion about the legalization of euthanasia in Spain gained strength from a real case and with the help of Hollywood.
In 1998, tetraplegic sailor Ramón Sampedro killed himself by ingesting potassium cyanide, aided by a friend. This came after he lost a court battle he had fought in 1993 to be entitled to euthanasia.
Sampedro himself videotaped his death to let people know of his will and to exempt from criminal responsibility the friend who helped him prepare for euthanasia.
The case had repercussions in 2004, with the success of the feature film out to sea, inspired by the case of Sampedro and starring actor Javier Bardem. out to sea won the Oscar for best foreign film of 2005.