Colombia okays first mercy killing for cancer patient

Bogota: A committee of experts at a hospital in the central Colombian city of Pereira has authorised the first mercy killing in the country in the case of a patient with terminal cancer whom several days ago the hospital ceased treating for legal reasons, Spanish news agency Efe reported.

Ovidio Gonzalez, 79, suffers from an aggressive cancer in his face that can no longer be productively treated.

The Western Oncological Clinic, where the legal circumstances unfolded, finally definitively authorised euthanasia for Gonzalez on Thursday. Last week it cancelled the appointment that was made to carry out that procedure, the patient's son, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, complained last Sunday.

Gonzalez, a cartoonist known in Colombia as 'Matador', told the media that one of the hospital's doctors "said that to fulfill that right he (the patient) had to be completely debilitated, and with the way things are he can live a while longer".

In the face of the controversy caused by the case, the health ministry on Tuesday urged medical institutions and professionals to follow the established procedures for enabling "preemptive death with maximum humanitarian feeling".

The ministry said that "carrying out the procedure of euthanasia... is duly regulated in the country and establishes... a detailed process that must be complied with by those who have the obligation to participate in it".

The regulations for euthanasia were handed down on April 20 by the health ministry following the mandate of the Constitutional Court.

Regarding the reasons for temporarily halting allowing Gonzalez to undergo euthanasia, the ministry said that "apparently a discrepancy arose between the... attending physician and the physician on the interdisciplinary scientific committee for the right to die with dignity".

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