Woman Battling ALS Denied Euthanasia Procedure 1 Day Before Scheduled Death

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Martha Sepulveda Campo, 51, spent what she thought were her finals days with her family smiling and laughing with family members until she learned on Saturday that the clinic doing procedure reversed its decision, a report said.

A 51-year-old Colombian woman suffering from ALS who was ready to die by euthanasia found out a day before the procedure that she did not meet the criteria of a terminal patient, according to a published report.

“I am calmer since the procedure was authorized,” Martha Sepulveda Campo told Noticias Telemundo before Saturday’s reversal. “I laugh more, I sleep more calmly.” 

Sepulveda, who has 11 siblings and a son, spent what she thought were her finals days with her family smiling and laughing and even having a beer until she learned on Saturday that the committee from the center where she was to undergo the procedure, the Instituto Colombiano del Dolor, reversed their decision, Noticias Telemundo reported.

Sepulveda would have been the first patient without an immediate terminal prognosis, which is given to those expected to live for six months or less, to receive euthanasia in Colombia, a report said. 

During an interview with a Colombian television network, Noticias Caracol, Sepulveda said “in the state that I have it, the best thing that can happen to me is to rest,” she said. 

Sepulveda was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2019. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, The disease often begins with muscle twitching and weakness in a limb, or slurred speech. Eventually, ALS affects control of the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. There is no cure and the disease is fatal.

In 1997, Colombia was the first country in Latin America to legalize euthanasia and stop treating it as a criminal offense. The county was considered progressive in the right to a dignified death, both in Latin America and globally, and one of the few countries in the world to allow this, but in 2021, euthanasia was only permitted in cases of terminal illness, according to Noticias Telemundo. 

On August 6, Sepulveda was granted the request a few days after the Colombian Constitutional Court announced the expansion of the right to die by euthanasia on July 22nd. The Agencie EFE reported that those who met the criteria were “patients who suffer intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease."

Sepulveda’s decision faced opposition from some, mainly for religious reasons. The country has a large majority of Roman Catholics, some of whom consider euthanasia a “serious offense,” the news outlet reported.

The Episcopal Conference of Colombia issued a statement after the initial decision in July. Monsignor Francisco Antonio Ceballos Escobar stated that it was “homicide gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and the divine respect of its creator,” and stated that instead of promoting the procedure, he instead called for taking care of the sick, El Tiempo reported. 

A lawyer for the family, Camila Jaramillo Salazar, said Sepúlveda's decision had garnered a lot of support from Colombians, despite criticism from the Catholic church, Noticias Telemundo reported. 

Sepulveda said that she spoke to her pastors and she said, “I know that the owner of life is God, yes. Nothing moves without his will,” but also said she thinks God, “is allowing this,” the news outlet reported.

Sepulveda’s son Federico Redondo Sepúlveda told Noticias Caracol, “I need my mother, I want her with me, almost in any condition, but I know that in her words she no longer lives, she survives.”

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