Catalan health minister insists on decriminalization of euthanasia
Alba Vergés: "We have the responsibility to answer to the people"
Catalan health minister Alba Vergés has long defended the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide since, in Spain, helping someone die is punishable with up to 10-year sentences.
According to Vergés, almost 80% of people in Catalonia believe euthanasia and assisted suicide should be available to those who choose to access them, for which she says it is “a demand and we have the responsibility to answer to the people.”
Even though the current Catalan government may very well be prepared to legalize these end of life options, it lacks the authority to modify a statewide law that is regulated by Article 143 of the Spanish Penal Code.
Despite this, the Catalan parliament has twice asked the Spanish Congress to legalize and regulate euthanasia and assisted death by presenting it with draft bills to be debated in Madrid – once in 2017, but the proposal was shelved due to changes in Spain’s government and parliament, and once again in June 2019.
There is also a euthanasia and assisted suicide working group in the Catalan parliament that has been speaking to health professionals to come up with proposals on how to regulate the matter.
Case that shocked Spain
The issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide was brought back into the spotlight in April, when it transpired that Ángel Hernández helped his wife with a severe case of MS, María José Carrasco, die.
Carefully documenting their story, he set up a camera in their living room and is show on tape asking her if she wanted to go ahead with their plans. After unequivocally assenting, Hernández placed a glass containing a fatal substance and a straw in front of her.
Hernández told Catalan News that they had “Decided to [share their story] to make people speak of the [need to approve a] euthanasia law,” even though he could still face charges in an ongoing case against him for assisting her.
He also spoke at the Catalan parliament in June with the Association Right to Die with Dignity of his experiences and of the need to change the law in Spain.