Colombia Woman Wins Right To Die After Historic Fight

Martha Sepúlveda, who was battling ALS, has died
By Josh Gardner,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2022 7:15 AM CST
Colombia Woman Wins Battle To Die By Assisted Suicide
A Colombia woman has died after a prolonged battle to win the right to end her own life   (Getty Images/Lighthaunter)

(Newser) Update: A Colombia woman who, for months, was fighting for her right to end her own life, has died by euthanasia. Per the Washington Post, 51-year-old Martha Sepúlveda, who suffered from ALS, won her high-profile battle to die “according to her idea of autonomy and dignity,” per a statement from her representatives. Our original story from October 2021 follows:

The Colombian woman who had won the right to die by euthanasia went to bed Friday night ready to face her last day on Earth. But a call from her lawyers woke her and changed everything. Martha Sepúlveda has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease—the same disease Stephen Hawking had. But her condition is not considered terminal. Colombia is one of only a few countries that allows euthanasia. That allowance is only for people with six months or less to live, and only recently extended it to include people with "intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease." Thus, Sepúlveda canceled her phone plan, spent time watching Netflix with her son, and finalized all of her plans, the Washington Post reports.

She didn’t know that her case could still be reviewed, though. Instead, health officials determined that her condition had improved and she no longer qualified for the death she had planned. The Colombian Institute of Pain, the clinic where she was supposed to die on Sunday morning, made a last-minute decision to cancel, saying she no longer met their requirements. That determination was based in part on media coverage showing her smiling and laughing. “They’re obligating her to live a life that she is not willing to continue to live,” Lucas Correa Montoya, one of her lawyers, said. Her 22-year-old son, Federico Redondo Sepúlveda, who fought alongside his mother for her right to choose a dignified end, said the reversal brought back his mother’s worry and sadness. The family may or may not try to get the original decision restored, NBC News reports. (Read more euthanasia stories.)

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