Spain Government Wants to Legalize Euthanasia Based on Woman’s Case

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 29, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Spain Government Wants to Legalize Euthanasia Based on Woman’s Case Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 29
, 2006

Madrid, Spain ( — Spain will become the next nation to legalize euthanasia if Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has his way. People in Spain who assist someone in taking their life could face up to six months in prison, but Zapatero wants to make it legal.

That would have the European nation joining the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium in promoting euthanasia.

The prime minister is relying on the case of Inmaculada Echevarria to support his proposal.

Echevarria has suffered from muscular dystrophy and been confined to a hospital bed for 20 years because of a limited ability to move. She’s had enough and wants to die.

“For me, life stopped having meaning a long time ago," the 51 year-old woman told the Associated Press. "I want them to help me die because I have spent my whole life suffering."

Her case has spawned a national debate with pro-life advocates saying better pain relief, palliative care, and medical support is the answer for patients like Echevarria, not death.

The Catholic Church is helping to lead the fight against legalizing euthanasia.

“Provoking the death of another person, as compassionate as the motives might be, is always alien to the notion of the dignity of human beings,” Braulio Rodriguez Plaza, archbishop of the northern city of Valladolid, wrote in a letter to Catholics, according to AP.

There is some debate as to whether Echevarria’s request is already legal.

Fernando Martin, a spokesman for a pro-euthanasia group Right to Die with Dignity, asserts that taking the woman off of a respirator would be legal in Spain because it wouldn’t be an active act of purposefully killing a patient.

Spanish Health Minister Elena Salgado said last week that Echevarria’s case was best left up to the courts and that’s where the debate may stay unless Spain’s parliament moves forward with a bill.

Spain has been embroiled in a debate about euthanasia since Alejandro Amenabar’s "The Sea Inside" promoted the story of a euthanasia activist there.

Though it garnered film awards from the media elite, the film flopped at the box office.

The film generated little enthusiasm from movie-goers took in just $55,000 at 23 locations nationwide in its first week compared to millions for the top movies. The Spanish-language drama, starring Javier Bardem, averaged a paltry $2,391 per theater.

Amenabar directs the picture, which brings to the screen the story of Ramon Sampedro, a seaman who is left paralyzed after a horrific accident.

Sampedro is confined to a bed after the incident and he spends the next decades begging friends and family to euthanize him. Through his plight, he becomes a champion of euthanasia forces in Spain seeking to legalize assisted suicide.

During his life, he is romanticized by two women — one who agrees he should end his life and another who passionately urges him to fight and not give up hope.