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First Colombian with non-terminal illness dies legally by euthanasia

“I’m not saying goodbye, just ‘see you later,’” Victor Escobar said.
Image: Burdened by ailments, Victor Escobar decided to die and make it public.
Burdened by ailments, Victor Escobar decided to die and make it public.Luis Robayo / AFP - Getty Images

Colombian Victor Escobar became the first person in the Andean country with a non-terminal illness to die by legally regulated euthanasia late on Friday, his lawyer Luis Giraldo confirmed.

“We reached the goal for patients like me, who aren’t terminal but degenerative, to win this battle, a battle that opens the doors for the other patients who come after me and who right now want a dignified death,” Escobar, 60, said in a video message sent to media by Giraldo.

On Saturday, a second Colombian, Martha Sepulveda, with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was also euthanized.

Escobar suffered from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which greatly diminishes quality of life, as well as a number of other conditions, Giraldo told Reuters.

The procedure took place in a clinic in Cali, the capital city of Colombia’s Valle del Cauca province.

“I’m not saying goodbye, just ‘see you later,’” Escobar said.

Escobar had fought two-years for his right to euthanasia in the face of opposition from doctors, clinics and courts, even though the Constitutional Court last year recognized the procedure should be available for others besides the terminally ill.

On Saturday, Sepulveda underwent the procedure in the city of Medellin at midday, Colombian legal rights advocacy group DescLAB — who supported her case — said in a statement.

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Sepulveda had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2018, and was due to be euthanized on Oct. 10 last year, before the procedure was halted last minute.

Colombia’s Constitutional Court removed penalties for euthanasia under certain circumstances in 1997 and ordered the procedure to be regulated in 2014. The first person in Colombia with a terminal illness to die under those rules was in 2015.

As of Oct. 15 last year, 178 people with terminal illnesses had been legally euthanized in Colombia since 2015, according to DescLAB.