Colombia: Víctor Escobar’s last days before his euthanasia | Society


Víctor Escobar fights for euthanasia authorization in Colombia
Víctor Escobar fights for euthanasia authorization in ColombiaCourtesy

This Friday, January 7 at 7:00 p.m., if no last-minute impediment is encountered – as has already happened twice in scheduled euthanasia procedures in Colombia – Víctor Escobar, 60, will put an end to the pain he is enduring for years.

“My morality is that now I can achieve it because the suffering is a lot,” Escobar told EL PAÍS in November, when his case was still entangled in the bureaucracy. With enormous difficulty speaking and breathing, he listed the series of medical problems that led him to insist on euthanasia: two strokes, left hemiparesis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high pulmonary pressure, fibrosis, diabetes and hypertension, among others.

Colombians still have fresh memories of the case of Martha Sepúlveda, a 51-year-old woman who had everything ready to be the first person to access that right in the country without being a terminal patient, but the clinic canceled the procedure two nights before. That happened in October 2021 and generated a national debate that alienated the woman from the press: before her scheduled euthanasia was canceled, a television report had been broadcast in which she spoke of her decision to die and the interview was supposedly used to deny you the procedure. Finally, two weeks later, a judge in Medellín ordered the clinic to reschedule with Sepúlveda the day and time of his euthanasia.

For this reason, Víctor Escobar has taken safeguards. “This is a definitive week for him and his family. He has asked not to speak in the media to be with them. We trust that there will be no stumbling block, ”said Luis Giraldo, his lawyer. However, on Friday afternoon Escobar plans to give a press conference from his home in Cali and “say goodbye to the Colombians.”

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In Colombia, euthanasia has been legal since 2015 and so far 157 terminally ill people have opted for it. In July 2021, the Constitutional Court extended the right to non-terminal patients who had “intense physical or mental suffering due to bodily injury or serious and incurable diseases”.

For Víctor Escobar, this failure was the opportunity to insist on his desire to die with dignity. Since 2020, he had asked his Health Promotion Company (EPS) for euthanasia, but it had been denied by the latter considering that he was not in the terminal phase. Last September he asked for it again under the new court ruling, but his doctors told them that they were not clear on how to activate the euthanasia procedure.

At the center of the discussion is the absence of regulation and the legal uncertainty that some health providers argue. “That is why the debate must be on the national agenda until Congress regulates it, because there is legal uncertainty, many do not do it because they say there is no law, although the Court has made several sentences endorsing the right to die with dignity,” he told this newspaper the representative to the Chamber Juan Fernando Reyes Kuri, one of the speakers of projects on euthanasia.

With the shirt on

Victor’s case was tangled in that legal tangle for a time. His lawyer filed a lawsuit and a Cali judge ordered Coomeva, the health provider, which should “grant the constitutional protection of the right to die with dignity”, to hold a new medical committee to evaluate the man’s case and within a period of 15 days, if he persisted in his decision, carry out the procedure.

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But the committee of the clinic that should practice euthanasia said that Escobar did not accredit the conditions of a terminal illness “nor the existence of a medical condition incompatible with human dignity capable of producing intense suffering.” And the health promoting entity challenged the first instance ruling.

The case reached the Superior Court of Cali, which found a judicial error that returned the process to the judge. Thus, at the beginning of December, the same court ordered the health company to form a new scientific committee and coordinate with the patient the date and time of his death. And it went further. “It is clarified that the composition of the committee is not to decide the relevance or not of euthanasia, but to accompany the patient in his decision to die with dignity,” wrote the judge.

Giraldo says that everything is firm for this Friday because the health company did not contest the decision within the specified deadlines and that it has already hired another clinic to perform euthanasia.

Meanwhile, Víctor Escobar, who was a truck driver all his life, has spent his last days in the middle of the search for money and work for his wife Diana Francelly Nieto and the party for the tenth star of his soccer team, Deportivo Cali. He has said that he plans to donate his functional organs and be cremated the next day, and that when he dies he will have on the team’s green jersey sugar Bowl, whose players he met this year. He dedicated a message to them: “I will leave happy with this title that they offer us. My departure is approaching and with it my duty fulfilled as a Cali fan ”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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