BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s Supreme Court has upheld “the right of every patient to choose a dignified death,” drawing a sharp distinction between halting treatment and euthanasia.
The ruling, released Tuesday by the Center for Judicial Information, confirmed a lower court’s decision to allow the end of extraordinary measures to preserve the life of a person, identified only as M.A.D., who has remained in a persistent vegetative state since 1995 due to injuries received in a auto accident.
The high court is breaking new ground, as the patients in previous instances where the judiciary authorized the termination of medical treatment had set down in writing their wishes not to be kept alive artificially.
Under Argentina’s 2012 Patients’ Rights Law, physicians and hospitals are bound to respect written instructions to that effect.
“(The patient) lacks consciousness of the surrounding environment, the capacity for communication, understanding or expression through any language, and does not present any evidence of residual cognitive capacity,” the Supreme Court said.
Justices Ricardo Lorenzetti, Elena Highton de Nolasco and Juan Carlos Maqueda pointed to affidavits from the siblings of M.A.D. that he told them he did not want to be kept alive if he should fall into an irreversible coma.
The high court concluded that the Patients’ Rights Law allows doctors and hospitals to accept such statements from family members when the patient cannot speak for herself.
“The request for the end of life support does not signify a euthanasic practice banned by law, but instead constitutes a therapeutic abstention that is permitted,” the Supreme Court said.
Argentine law classifies euthanasia and assisted suicide as homicide.