Devout Catholic will be Colombia’s first non-terminal patient to die from euthanasia

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NSThe hearty belly laugh of Martha Sepulveda at the Medellin restaurant appears to be the epitome of carefree bliss. She pauses, feasts between sips of beer to joke with her son, Federico Redondo patacona – a local delicacy of fried green plantains – and covers the establishment with its infectious joie de vivre.

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If it weren’t for the presence of a news party, it would seem to be just another celebration. Special Occasion? Imminent death of Ms. Sipulveda.

“I’m in good spirits,” she explains snail news‘s Juan David Laverde. “I am at peace because they have authorized the process; I laugh more, sleep better.”


The process she is talking about is euthanasia. On Sunday, the 51-year-old will be the 158th person in Colombia to receive euthanasia since it was legalized in 2015. Out of the group, she would have the distinction of being the first non-terminal patient to receive it.

About three years ago, Ms Sepulveda was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which targets the nervous system, weakens muscles and severely affect mobility. majority of recent statistics The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 16,000 people in the United States have ALS. In the country of origin of Ms. Sipulveda, Number The number of cases is around 2,500. A combination of therapy and medication can help reduce pain and discomfort, but there is no cure.

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“I may be a coward, but I don’t want to suffer anymore,” says Ms. Sepulveda, who has been wheelchair-dependent since last year, with no fight left in her. “I’ve literally run out of strength. Fight for what? I’m fighting to relax,” she continues, punctuating her remarks with a trademark laugh. She says that although she was hesitant at first, her 83-year-old mother supports her decision, as do her 11 siblings.

Not everyone shares their resignation.

The Episcopal Conference of Colombia, which is made up of all the bishops of the country’s diocese, was among the first to respond. The organization called for a national prayer chain and publicly condemned the choice.

“According to our deepest Christian beliefs, death cannot in any case be the medical answer to pain and suffering,” said Monsignor Francisco Antonio Ceballos Escobar in a video statement Posted on Facebook. “Unlike the use of palliative care, death by assisted suicide or euthanasia does not fit our interpretation of a dignified human life.”

During the recorded message, the pastor also criticized the press coverage around the case, which he called “a sort of euthanasia propaganda in a country already marked by violence.”

Catholicism runs deep in Colombia, and its form of Roman Catholicism Agreed One of the most traditional and conservative in Latin America. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. in present, the nation boasts of the seventh largest Catholic population in the world.

Ms Sepulveda, herself a Catholic, considers her alternate exit to be part of God’s plan.

“On the spiritual plane, I am completely at peace,” she repeated. “I’m a Catholic, I consider myself a strong believer in God, but God doesn’t want to see me or anyone else in pain. No father wants to see his children suffer.”

Nevertheless, it has proved difficult to find anyone in the church to attest to his faith. She recently went to confession, but was not able to convince a priest to perform the last rites beforehand.

“Why do they ask me, and my answer is always the same. Because I’m suffering; because I believe in a God who doesn’t want to see me that way,” says Ms. Sepulveda. “The way I see it, God is allowing it all… He’s rewarding me in a way, because I won’t be in bed anymore.”

His faith also informed him of the choice of the day to die.

“I chose it for Sunday because we all go to church that day,” she says. “From the beginning, I want it to descend on a Sunday and have the whole process – cremation, relics and the handing over of the Eucharist on the same day. I don’t want to see it, because I feel like it adds to people’s suffering.”

“The Most Humane Way”

“There has clearly been polarization,” said Ms Sepulveda’s lawyer, Camila Jaramillo Salazar, during a recent interview With RPP notice. Acknowledging the “religious uproar” associated with it, he is grateful that the case has brought the dignified death conversation to the fore.

Her client’s decision, she said, was not knee-jerk, and was “meditative and reflective for several months”.

To reach euthanasia, she was first evaluated by a medical committee, including a clinical psychologist, who ruled out depression and coercion.

“This is the most humane route,” insisted Ms. Jaramillo Salazar. “We all want to live and we all want to be healthy.”

When asked about her client’s spirits, she explained it this way: “She’s happy, she’s peaceful, she’s with her family and sure she’s making the right decisions.”

It is a decision accepted by Ms Sepulveda’s son, Federico.

“I look at it as the greatest love I’ve ever had, because I need my mom possibly And I want him to be by my side,” the law student told Noticias Caracol. “Now I’m focused on making her happy, making her laugh, having fun with her, and making sure her stay on earth, whatever is left, is a pleasant one.”

The 22-year-old’s latest social media posts prove just as much.

On 28 September, he tweeted a few pictures of himself and his smiling mother.

“I would do anything for that smile,” he captioned the photos.

With information from Juan David Laverde / Noticias Caracol and Elmer Huerta / RPP Noticias

Credit: / euthanasia

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