June 29, 2022

Colombian high court legalizes assisted suicide

Colombia’s Constitutional Court handed down a 6-3 decision last week to decriminalise assisted suicide. Although there are still significant legal obstacles, euthanasia has been legal in Colombia since 1997. But the legalisation of assisted suicide, in which the patient himself administers a lethal medication, lagged behind.

The case was fought by a right-to-die group, the Laboratory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (DescLAB). Colombia’s Penal Code formerly specified a punishment of up to 9 years in jail for someone who “effectively induces another to suicide, or provides effective assistance for its realization.” The penalty for helping someone end “intense suffering” was up to 3 years in jail.

Now, however, both euthanasia and assisted suicide will be legal. Six of nine judges declared, according to Reuters, that the same conditions apply as for euthanasia: a patient must have an injury or serious or incurable disease which causes intense physical or mental pain which he believes is incompatible with living a dignified life.

“It’s a new mechanism which, along with euthanasia, allows us to access a free, safe and accompanied medically assisted death,” DescLAB research director Lucas Correa said in a video. “It’s a decisive step for our country to consolidate its position as one of the most advanced in the world when it comes to the right to die with dignity.”