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Ecuador’s high court decriminalizes euthanasia, following a lawsuit by a terminally ill patient

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador’s high court on Wednesday decriminalized euthanasia and ordered lawmakers and health officials to draft rules and regulations for the procedure.

The decision of Ecuador’s highest court came in response to a lawsuit from a terminally ill woman diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ASL, who had argued that she should be allowed to have death with dignity.

In Latin America, Colombia previously had been the only country to decriminalize euthanasia, while Uruguay and Chile are debating the matter.

The lawsuit in Ecuador was filed by Paola Roldán in August 2023. She argued that a death with dignity is a right of “those who suffer and have suffered serious or incurable diseases.” She said they should be allowed to “freely and voluntarily to end their life” to stop “intense physical or emotional pain or suffering.”

Roldán, 42, began experiencing symptoms of ASL, which weakens muscles and impairs physical functions, in 2020.

It’s not clear whether she will be able to benefit from Wednesday’s verdict because the court gave time frames of up to 12 months for the development of the appropriate procedures to implement the decision.

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