A Colombian judge ordered Wednesday that euthanasia procedures be resumed for Martha Liria Sepúlveda Campo, a 51-year-old woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, after they were suspended earlier this month by an oversight body.
Judge Omar Vásquez Cuartas of the 20th Civil Circuit Court of Medellín made his ruling Oct. 27, saying the Colombian Pain Institute (IPS Incodol) must determine with Sepúlveda within 48 hours a day and time to carry out her euthanization.
Vásquez ruled that Incodol violated Sepúlveda’s “fundamental rights to die with dignity, to a decent life, to the free development of the personality and human dignity.”
The judge said, “it is recognized that she complies with the requirements to exercise her right to die with dignity by euthanasia as established by the judicial precedent.”
ALS has rendered Sepúlveda unable to move her legs, but it is not a terminal condition.
Colombia’s constitutional court ruled in July that non-terminally ill persons may be euthanized, provided they are undergoing intense suffering due to a serious and incurable illness or bodily injury. The euthanization of a non-terminally ill person has not yet taken place in the country.
Sepúlveda was to have been euthanized Oct. 10. She had requested euthanization within days of the court’s ruling, and the Interdisciplinary Scientific Committee approved the request Aug. 6.
But IPS Incodol reported Oct. 9 that the Interdisciplinary Scientific Committee for the Right to Die with Dignity "unanimously concluded to cancel the procedure."
Incodol explained that at an Oct. 8 meeting Sepúlveda’s request “was reviewed and analyzed again in a comprehensive and sufficient manner" and the decision was reached "to cancel the procedure."
The committee explained that “the cancellation decision is based on No. 26.6 of Article 26 of Resolution 971 of 2021 of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, which assigns the Committee within its functions to review the application process and the complete euthanasia procedure, in order to determine any situation that affects it being carried out.”
“By having an updated concept of the patient's health and condition going forward, it is determined that the termination criterion is not met as the first committee had considered."
CaracolTV broadcast a report Oct. 3 in which the woman said she was “peaceful” about her decision to be euthanized and that she is "a Catholic person, I consider myself a very much a believer in God, but, I repeat, God does not want to see me suffer and I believe no one to suffer. No father wants to see his children suffer.”
Bishop Francisco Ceballos of Riohacha, who is also the president of the Commission for the Promotion and Defense of the Life of the Colombian Bishop’s Conference, posted on Oct. 6 a video message addressed to the woman, asking her to desist from her decision.
“As a pastor of the Catholic Church, with much respect and much affection, I want to show my sister Martha that she is not alone, that the God of life is always with us. That her affliction can find a transcendent meaning if it becomes a call to the Love that heals, to the Love that renews, to the Love that forgives,” the bishop said.
“Martha, I invite you to calmly reflect on your decision,” he encouraged, “hopefully, if circumstances allow it, away from harassment by the media that have not hesitated to take your pain and that of your family and use it as a kind of propaganda for euthanasia, in a country deeply marked by violence.”
The Colombian prelate encouraged the faithful to pray a lot for Sepúlveda and her family, to reconsider her decision.
“To surround her in her reflection, I affectionately invite all Catholics to join in prayer for our sister Martha, for her son, for her relatives and for the professionals who are advising her, so that the God of Life, who is Supreme Love, would fill her with his mercy,” the bishop urged.
In his message, the Bishop of Riohacha explained that "in accordance with our deepest Christian convictions, death cannot be the therapeutic answer to pain and suffering in any case."
"Death caused by assisted suicide or euthanasia is not compatible with our interpretation of the dignity of human life, whereas the use of palliative care is," he stressed.