• by:
  • 2021-10-09
  • Source: The American Dossier
  • 10/21/2021
 It began with a strange feeling in her hand, a weakness in the thumb that made it difficult to hold a pen or grip a computer mouse.

In November 2018, a doctor gave Martha Sepúlveda her diagnosis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the progressive neurological disease known in the United States as Lou Gehrig's disease. In the months that followed, the Colombian woman lost control of the muscles in her legs - and she knew it would only get worse.

She would cry at night, overwhelmed by the thought. "What happens once I can no longer get into bed or use the bathroom without help?" she would ask her son. "How far am I going to go?"

Sepúlveda started reading about an option that could relieve her fear of what was to come: Euthanasia. Colombia, she learned, is the only country in Latin America - and one of only a few worldwide - that permits patients to end their lives.

Until this year, the option has been available legally only to those who are expected to live for six months or less. On Sunday, Sepúlveda, who considers herself a devout Catholic, plans to become the first person in Colombia without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia.

Colombia's constitutional court ruled in July that the right to euthanasia - recognized here in 1997 - applies not only to terminal patients, but also to those with "intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease."

The ruling has divided the faithful in this majority-Catholic country. Church officials have described euthanasia as a "serious offense" to the dignity of human life; a member of the national bishops' conference urged Sepúlveda to "calmly reflect" on her decision and invited all Catholics to pray that God will grant her mercy.
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