Ecuador has become the second country in Latin America, following Colombia, to decriminalize euthanasia. In a seven-to-two decision, the constitutional court voted in favor of allowing doctors to assist patients in ending their lives. This landmark decision is a response to a lawsuit brought forth by Paola Roldán, who is suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating neurological disease.
The court ruled that the crime of homicide would no longer apply to clinicians helping patients preserve their right to a dignified life. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, progressively damages the nervous system, leading to muscle weakness and wasting. Paola Roldán, confined to her bed, contested a penal code article that categorized euthanasia as a crime carrying a prison sentence of 10 to 13 years.
During a court hearing in November, Ms. Roldán expressed her desire to rest in peace, describing her experience as painful, lonely, and cruel. The court’s decision emphasized that individuals facing serious and irreversible bodily injuries or incurable illnesses should have the option to end intense suffering through free and informed decisions.
The Roman Catholic Church, predominant in Ecuador, maintains its staunch opposition to euthanasia. However, the court’s ruling signifies a significant step toward recognizing individual autonomy and the right to a dignified death. Colombia had decriminalized euthanasia in 1997.
Following the court’s decision, Ms. Roldán expressed that Ecuador had become “a little more welcoming, freer, and more dignified.” She described the fight for human rights as a challenging journey. While acknowledging the historic nature of the ruling, her father, Francisco Roldán, shared mixed feelings, acknowledging the potential outcome of his daughter’s passing.
The next step involves drafting and approving a bill on euthanasia by the Congress, a process that could take months. Nevertheless, Ms. Roldán’s lawyer, Farith Simon, argued that the ruling was “immediately enforceable,” suggesting a potential shift in the legal landscape surrounding end-of-life choices in Ecuador.