3 September 2008
MADRID — Andalusia is set to become the first Spanish region to guarantee the right of patients to a dignified death after the Seville-based government on Tuesday began drafting legislation that will allow the terminally ill to refuse care.
The draft law, which government officials expect will be approved in 2009, will allow terminal patients to make informed decisions about the type of care they receive, even if their choice could hasten their death, and obliges doctors and other medical staff to respect their wishes.
"The law will not only safeguard patients’ freedom and respect their will, but it will also support the work of healthcare professionals," María Jesús Montero, Andalusia’s health department chief, said Tuesday.
The legislation would protect doctors who turn off life support systems at a patients’ behest, for example, and will make those who refuse to comply with a patient’s wishes punishable by law.
Doctors who unilaterally choose to "provide life support with no clinical use, which affects the patient’s quality of life and which only serves to prolong their biological life with no possibility of their improvement or recovery" could be fined between EUR 60,000 and EUR 1 million.
The proposed legislation is similar to existing laws in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, although Andalusian officials argue that it stops short of permitting euthanasia, which remains illegal in Spain.
The Andalusian plan was first proposed in 2007 when doctors at a Catholic hospital in the region refused to comply with the last wishes of a terminally ill woman. She was ultimately transferred to another hospital where her artificial respirator was removed.
[El Pais / Expatica]