This summer, Uruguay showed interesting developments. A bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide is brought into Uruguay’s parliament, a Right to Die Society is born and a recent report showed that the majority of the population is supporting euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The 11th of March, senator Ope Pasquet presented a bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide:
Below is a summary of the most significant regulations included in the proposal:
- A request for euthanasia can be made by an adult, capable of understanding and willing, suffering from a terminal disease, irreversible and afflicted with unbearable suffering . The doctor, following these requirements, is not punishable. In the explanatory memorandum, the deputy pays attention to minors who have developed a maturity such as to autonomously make decisions regarding their illness. In fact, the “Patient and User Rights and Duties” law recognizes the right of minors to make decisions regarding their health. The same is foreseen in the “anticipated will” law.
- The attending physician must seek an opinion from another physician regarding compliance with the conditions indicated in point 1. This physician must visit the patient and his diagnosis must also refer to the medical documentation of the applicant for euthanasia. In the explanatory memorandum it is noted that if there is a difference of opinion between the treating physician and the consulting physician, the case may be referred to a Board of Doctors.
- The attending physician talks with the patient, in a complete and understandable way, to make sure that he knows and understands his situation and that the will to end his life is free, serious and consistent. The doctor informs the patient about possible therapeutic treatments and palliative care and their effect. In 2019, around 59% (in 2011 this percentage was 19%) of the population has access to palliative care, coverage that continues to grow thanks to a new investment plan by the government. At least 15 days must passbetween the first and second interview to re-ascertain the patient’s wishes already expressed previously. Based on interviews and the medical file, the attending physician draws up his opinion, countersigned by the patient, or by a third person, in case the applicant is unable to sign it.
- After at least another three days after the second interview, the patient who persists in his desire to die draws up the written request for euthanasia in front of two witnesses . In the explanatory memorandum it is indicated that in the case of the loss of the ability to understand and will, the patient must have indicated in the advance declaration of will the person responsible for the execution of this will.
- The request for euthanasia is always revocable without any formalities.
- The physician is responsible for the correct administration of the lethal drug to those who request it.
- The doctor immediately informs the Ethics Commission of the Ministry of Health, attaching the documentation on the progress of the procedure for accepting the euthanasia request.
- In the event that the Commission is of the opinion that the doctor has not followed the requirements established by law, it informs the Public Prosecutor. According to the proposal, not yet under discussion in Parliament, euthanasia is only possible for the terminally ill , excluding other physical and mental conditions that involve unbearable suffering.such as ALS or the accumulation of diseases each in themselves not terminal. In the explanatory memorandum it indicates that the conscientious objection is foreseen which is allowed, provided that it provides the medical file and all other information useful for judging the request for euthanasia, to the incoming doctor. The doctor, conscientious objector, is obliged to register in a special register in order to avoid wasting time in the search for a doctor willing to accept the patient’s request.
On the website of parliament, further developments can be followed.
Survey on euthanasia and assisted suicide
In June 2020, the Sindicato Médico de Uruguay (the Order of General Practitioners) published the results of the survey carried out among the population of the country to find out the opinion of citizens regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide. 68% of the respondents were in favor, while 14% is not opposed to euthanasia if performed safely . The position of Catholics is remarkable, ie 83%, one point higher than the national average, is in favor. This percentage drops to 62% for assisted suicide.
New RTD organization
On August 5, 2020, GRUPO DE APOYO PARA UNA MUERTE ASISTIDA DIGNA EN URUGUAY (M.A.D.U) published a press release about their establishment. Read here the public statements about the new RTD Society: