Colombia’s constitutional Court on Monday ordered the country’s government and Congress to come up with legislation to regulate euthanasia, which — 18 years after it ruled the practice was legal — has still not been done.
The court decriminalized the practice to intentionally end a terminally ill patient’s life in 1997. However, considering that the practice is taboo in the predominantly Catholic country, the country’s Congress and administrations have so far failed to propose bills that would regulate euthanasia.
The attorney of a terminally ill cancer patient had asked the court to set an ultimatum to regulate euthanasia after her insurance company failed to timely respond to requests for a “dignified death.” The women eventually died naturally while waiting for her insurance company to respond.
The Constitutional Court agreed and gave the government 30 days to propose the necessary legislation that would comply with the 1997 court ruling.
According to magistrate Ernesto Vargas, “the Court found that in spite of the existence of a ruling that decriminalizes euthanasia, the absence of regulation impedes that this constitution guarantee is materialized.”
According to the magistrate, “nobody knows how to obtain consent or when it would be wrong, etc.”
Vargas ordered the Health Ministry to “issue a guideline and make everything available for hospitals, clinics, IPS [health service providers], EPS [health intermediaries] and in general, health service providers, to form an interdisciplinary commission of experts … to guarantee the right to die with dignity,” weekly Semana cited the ruling.
Colombia’s Congress has a record of inactivity when it comes to creating laws on controversial issues like equal rights for gay people, abortion and euthanasia.