Colombian woman's euthanasia blocked days before she was ready to die legally

A Colombian woman who was set to become the country’s first person to die by legal euthanasia without an immediate terminal prognosis had the procedure canceled days before it was scheduled to occur, a human rights group said.

Martha Sepúlveda, 51, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, was scheduled to die by euthanasia Sunday but received a letter late Friday that the procedure would not be allowed to go forward.

The Colombian Pain Institute, where Sepúlveda was to die, ruled that her condition had improved from July to October and that it could no longer take place, according to the Laboratory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or DescLAB, the organization representing Sepúlveda.

DescLAB said, however, Sepúlveda had not been treated at the pain institute for months, “but according to them she is better.”

Sepúlveda’s son, Federico Redondo Sepúlveda, 22, said his mother felt she was “back to her previous state of desperation and sadness, and there’s nothing that can change that,” according to a video statement provided to the Washington Post.

A woman walks into the Colombian Institute for Pain clinic (INCODOL), in Medellin, Colombia, on October 10, 2021.

The case has garnered international attention, raising questions around how expansive euthanasia laws should be. Colombia first decriminalized euthanasia in 1997, and in July, a Colombian court ruled to expand the right to include not only patients with immediate terminal prognoses but also those with “intense physical or mental suffering, from bodily injury or serious and incurable illness.”

Sepúlveda, a devout Catholic, told Noticias Caracol earlier this month she did not see the procedure conflicting with her faith. “I believe in a God who doesn’t want to see me like this,” she told the TV station.

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