A terminally ill Peruvian woman filed a lawsuit Friday requesting that the state recognize a right to euthanasia.
The Peruvian ombudsman’s office presented the case on behalf of Ana Estrada Feb. 7.
Walter Gutiérrez Camacho, the ombudsman, said that his office is representing Estrada because of “our role as guarantor and promoter of fundamental rights so that the free and informed will of a person to decide to cease his life is repected and guaranteed, when by certain conditions, as in this case, their human dignity is gravely and irreversibly affected.”
Voluntary euthanization of a person with intolerable pain is the criminal offense of homicide in Peru, and can be penalized with up to three years imprisonment.
Estrada, 43, has polymyositis, a chronic muscle inflammation, which has left her paralyzed.
Peru’s Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will hear the case.
The ombudsman’s office argues that the prohibition of voluntary euthanasia violates one’s right to live with dignity, and that the courts have “recognized and developed fundamental rights intimately tied to the right to death in dignified conditions,” such as “the right to dignity, to integrity, to a dignified life and the free development of personality.”
It also claims that Peru’s treaty obligations oblige it “to respect, protect, and guarantee the aforementioned rights.”
At a press conference announcing the suit, Gutiérrez said: “We mold the stories of our lives with our decisions, and it does not make sense that in the last chapter of our life we are not allowed to make the decision” to die.
Estrada told Reuters that she wants a right to euthanasia “to avoid the suffering,” and “because this is about how I live my life, about liberty. I do not feel free right now. I don’t have the freedom to choose over my own body.”
Euthanasia or assisted suicide have been legalized in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, and in some parts of the US and Australia.
In this 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae, St. John Paul II taught that “euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.”
He reflected that there was a growing temptation “to have recourse to euthanasia, that is, to take control of death and bring it about before its time, ‘gently’ ending one’s own life or the life of others. In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely is seen to be senseless and inhumane. Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the ‘culture of death’, which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organized almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value.”