On August 27, a draft law to regulate euthanasia was presented to the Congress of the republic Colombia. The bill intends to fill the void that exists in Colombia for 22 years, since a 1997 sentence of the Constitutional Court. The bill provides guidelines for the application of euthanasia, both for patients with end-stage disease and for patients with chronic disease with a high impact on quality of life.
A person can rely on the law when one of three conditions is met: that the person has 1) a terminal illness with a prognosis of death, 2) a terminal disease in an advanced state or 3) an incurable disease and that his or her quality of life is affected in a serious way.
Euthanasia was already legally allowed in Colombia?
In 1997, the Constitutional Court has guaranteed euthanasia through Judgment C-239 and through other guardianship decisions. In 2015, the Ministry of Health created Resolution 1216, that established some requirements to access this right. This resolution is maintained untill the bill is approved.
What is then the use of a law?
Having a law will give peace of mind to the treating doctors, who many times, for not having much regulatory clarity, are afraid to apply this procedure. And it also guarantees the right of those who, fulfilling these conditions, have the final decision to apply euthanasia.
Is there something new about the bill, compared to what the Court has said?
Yes, the provisions of the Court are expanded. Two more causes are added in order to rely on the law. The Court only opened euthanasia to people who have a terminal disease in an advanced stage. The draft law includes two more situations in which a person can rely on the law: 1) when a person has an incurable disease with a prognosis of death (for example a cancer that is very advanced) and to him/her is told that only palliative care can be done; and 2) when a person has a medical condition that affects his/her quality of life in a serious way (for example someone who is in a quadriplegic state): you do not have a terminal illness, but you have a medical condition that is not going to be replaced and that affects your quality of life.
The presenter of the law, Representative for the Liberal Party Juan Fernando Reyes Kure, asked DMD for advice.