Euthanasia in Spain

The whole debate about Euthanasia and the right of terminal patients to end their own life has been opened up once again by the death of a a pentaplegic man, Jorge Leon, this weekend.

Eight years ago Spain was gripped by the story of Ramon Sampedro, who became a quadriplegic after a diving accident when he was 25 and spent the rest of his life (29 years) on a bed unable to move. He took his case to court and appealed to be granted the right to end his own life with the help of others, but his requests to do so were repeatedly denied by the Spanish government. Alejando Almenabar’s film about Sampedro’s fight, The Sea Inside, won the oscar for the best foreign film in 2004.

The Spanish Catholic Church claims euthanasia is immoral and antisocial, and according to Spanish law anyone who helps people like Ramon Sampedro and Jorge Leon to end their own life can be tried and found guilty of manslaughter.

Jorge Leon became a pentaplegic after an accident 6 years ago, and his family say he did not want to spend years suffering, unable to breath without assistance and unable to move anything from his neck down. He shared his wish to die and his experience of being locked inside a useless body in a blog where he published regular articles describing his feelings and asking for the right to have a dignified death. He criticised the fact that because euthanasia is illegal in Spain, people wanting to end their life had to do so without the medical expertise which could minimise any potential suffering. In his blog he expressed his desire to find “a hand to hold the glass, a clever hand that can make up for my useless one, a hand to act according to my will, which is still free”.

He published his last article on 2nd May.

His body was found last week in his flat with a glass next to his chair and his artificial breathing machine turned off. His family have released a statement in which they have asked police not to start a search to find the person who helped Jorge to carry out his final wish.

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