Thursday Februari 25, the Peruvian Supreme Court ruled that Ana Estrada Ugarte (43) can choose herself the moment of her death, and even receive help. The verdict is a breakthrough in the predominantly Catholic South American country.
This week, after a four-year legal battle, the Court ruled that Peruvian criminal law, in which “death of grace” is a criminal offense, does not apply to Estrada. She is entitled to “a death with dignity, just as she is entitled to a life with dignity.”
Ana Estrada Ugarte
Although the chronically ill woman is currently outside her bed only a few hours a day, in a wheelchair and dependent on artificial respiration and several carers, she does not want to die for the time being, she said. “I will continue to live the last chapter of my life. I keep thinking independently, keep developing, making my own decisions, as I always have. Estrada worked as a psychologist until her body couldn’t take it anymore. “I hate to be a psychologist in the hospital”, she writes in her blog. “That they said to me: you are psychologist, you need to know how to calm yourself down.”
Read more about her on her blog: Ana – Por una muerte digna (wordpress.com)
The right to dignity
The criminal law that Estrada banned euthanasia so far is in this case unconstitutional, the judge writes, because it violates other rights. “Extreme suffering actually destroys freedom, autonomy and the right to dignity. “The verdict states that the Ministry of Health and the Peruvian health insurer EsSalud must respect Estrada’s wishes and facilitate. The moment she expresses her death wish, it has to come in ten days. The medics who administer the deadly medicine to her, cannot be prosecuted.
Reaction of Estrada
Estrada emphasized in interviews after the verdict that the case is not about her option to a self-chosen death, but about the right to freedom. “Free!” She tweeted after the ruling was published. She dedicated the legal victory to “the women who was not listened to. To girls and women who had to keep quiet. On mothers, sisters, daughters and friends who were murdered or disappeared. Justice for all!”
The verdict is not entirely irreversible, the Ministry of Health can decide yet to appeal. “If they won an appeal, we would turn to the Constitutional Court”, Peruvian ombudsman Walter Gutierrez told the local media. Gutierrez filed the case with the Supreme Court on behalf of Estrada. “We assume that the same arguments hold up in an appeal. But we hope that the ministry should renounce it and that the constitution will be respected.”
The ruling in favor of Estrada sets a powerful precedent in a country with true religious beliefs. The court has tried to counteract precedent in the case of Estrada by explicitly stating that the exception applies only to her. Still, this victory paved the way for other chronically ill. Partly inspired by Estrada, a Peruvian parliamentarian wrote last month a private member’s bill to legalize euthanasia.