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Colombia regulates the right of boys, girls and adolescents (NNA) to die through euthanasia

The Ministry of Health, ordered by the Constitutional Court, has recently issued a resolution in which it regulates the right of boys, girls and adolescents (NNA) to die through euthanasia (NNA). In this new regulation, the minor, as is the case for adults, has to undergo a terminal illness and has to be in a situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased; the request has to be made to the treating MD; an Ethics Committee convened by the health insurance provider has to approve the petition. Additionally, the NNA has to give his or her voluntary, free of coercion, informed and unequivocal consent.

Therefore, the regulation defines four different cases:

  • for those in early childhood, from 0 to 6, and also in case of NNA with altered states of consciousness, intellectual disabilities, and/or diagnosed psychiatric illnesses, parents and legal guardians will not be able to request the euthanasia procedure.
  • Second, for girls and boys from 6 to 12, the request is only possible if the child has the neuro-cognitive and psychological capacity to consent for him or herself, and his or her understanding of death corresponds to that of children from 12 years onward, to whom “the notion of death consolidates as irreversible, universal and inexorable”.
  • Third, for adolescents 12 to 14 years old: their wish prevails but parents or legal guardians must agree.
  • Finally, in the case of older than 14 youngsters, only their consent is necessary.

The Ministry’s regulation emphasizes that the right to die with dignity not only refers to assisted death or euthanasia, but it also refers to the right to “the integral care of the dying process” which subsumes palliative care. Colombia is the only Latin-American country where the Court has reiterated that the fundamental right to a life with dignity implies the right to die with dignity.

The Court has not only underlined the strong relationship between death with dignity and human dignity in general, but also the principle of human self-determination, and an understanding of human nature as something greater than mere vital subsistence.

Now, Colombia becomes the third country after the Netherlands and Belgium to regulate this procedure for girls, boys and adolescents.