Ecuador top court recognizes right to euthanasia

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's Constitutional Court on Wednesday approved a request from a terminally ill patient to decriminalize euthanasia and ordered the National Assembly to approve a law regulating the procedure within a year.

Paola Roldan, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2020, petitioned Ecuador's top court in August last year to recognize her right to euthanasia, given her deterioration and pain caused by the illness.

The resolution is immediately applicable and Roldan can choose to be euthanized whenever she decides, her lawyers told journalists.

In its ruling, the court recognized the right for people to make free and informed decisions including "the option of ending the intense suffering caused by a serious and irreversible bodily injury or a serious and incurable illness."

Ecuador is the latest country in the region to authorize euthanasia, following Cuba - which gave it the green light in December - and neighboring Colombia, which allows euthanasia in certain instances.

Roldan, 42, has narrated on social network X the daily complications of her illness, including when her body began to reject food fed intravenously.

"This has been a very special moment for me," Roldan told journalists, adding she will now take time to assimilate what this means alongside her lawyers. "I am grateful to everyone because today Ecuador is a little more welcoming, freer, and more dignified."

The court's ruling also ordered the Ministry of Health to prepare regulations for active euthanasia procedures within two months, and instructed the ombudsman's office to present the bill which must be approved by the National Assembly.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Sandra Maler)