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'Dignified dying' law passed in Parliament, but does not permit euthanasia
A NEW 'dignified death' law for terminally-ill patients has been agreed in Parliament, but does not include the right to euthanasia or assisted suicide.
This issue has been under debate in Spain for well over a decade, and was sharply highlighted by the hit film Mar Adentro ('The Sea Inside'), by The Others director Alejandro Almenábar, based upon the true story of a paraplegic man fighting to be allowed to die (pictured).
Presented by centre-right Ciudadanos, the draft law is backed by the PP, PSOE, Unidos Podemos, Compromís and UPN-Navarra, and guarantees pain relief and dignity through effective palliative care.
Several left-wing parties had previously criticised how numerous patients, at the end of their lives, suffered a 'horrible death' with insufficient pain relief, limited care and poor bedside manner, and wanted to make sure everyone had the right to their wishes, preferences, values and beliefs being respected and their free will being the uppermost consideration when they were facing the end.
This could include refusing treatment or requesting not to be resuscitated, and ensuring that those who required it would not suffer any discrimination in being given care or drugs as needed.
Physical and emotional symptoms must now be attended to in accordance with the desires of the patient, and anyone who is terminally ill will be given personalised attention.
Coordination between medical services and social services will be guaranteed and all healthcare staff will be advised of their duties when they are caring for a person who is not expected to survive.
The law text highlights the need to differentiate between 'reasonable therapeutic efforts' to extend the lives of terminal patients in 'dignified conditions', and simply 'prolonging life' when this would only involve additional suffering.
“Extending life should not be considered to override the right of the patient to spend his or her final days in accordance with his or her personal convictions and beliefs,” the text says.
This means pain relief and even sedation can be requested, even where this may shorten the patient's life, together with the right to be treated at home or in any other place required – such as the home of a family member or friend – rather than being forced to stay in hospital.
Thos who need to stay in hospital will be allowed to have any friends, family members and even 'spiritual leaders' around them who they wish, and will now be allowed to stay in a single room rather than sharing with one or two other patients.
Unidos Podemos, although it voted in favour of the new law, criticised the fact that the words 'euthanasia', 'right to die' and 'assisted suicide' did not appear in the text, saying patients would 'still die in unpleasant conditions' if this was not permitted by law.
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