The Health Ministry congratulates itself for having “helped people to die with dignity”. One month ago, the government replaced 11 of the 12 experts of the public bioethics committee that criticised the law last year.
Spain has released data of the register of euthanasia cases carried in Spain since the new law regulating this practice came into force in June 2021.
In the first year, the government is aware of a total of 180 euthanasia deaths carried out throughout the Spanish healthcare system.
During a press conference, the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, said “we have helped 180 people to die with dignity”. According to Darias, the government considers that “the implementation of this right is being carried out adequately” and that “thanks to the implementation of this law, the National Health System is more inclusive and universal”.
The report says organs have been donated in 28 cases of euthanasia, leading to 68 transplants. “We celebrate the fact that we have a new health service in the National Health System that allows more guaranteed access to one of the most valuable assets of the human condition”, added Darias.
On 1 August, Spain’s Health Minister announced important changes to the official Bioethics Committee, the consultative body of medical experts created in 2007. This group had been particularly critical of the content and application of the new euthanasia law, even after its approval. The government has now decided to replace 11 of the 12 members of the committee.
Another fact that has been criticised is the territorial imbalance of the application of euthanasia in the first year. For example, Catalonia (60 cases) and the Basque Country (25) are the Autonomous Communities in which euthanasia has been carried out most, and where the Guarantees and Evaluation Commissions have been most active. In contrast, Madrid (19 requests dealt with) and Andalusia (11 requests dealt with) have been the last territories to establish these control commissions, leading to a delay in the beginning of the evaluation and management of euthanasia requests.
The Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE) followed the development of the law and evaluated the text approved in 2021 critically. The organisation warned of the “risk of euthanasia tending to become more flexible”. The bioethics working group of the AEE analysed five key issues of the law in a document (Spanish).
According to them, “the present law regulates and decriminalises euthanasia under certain conditions, but in practice it facilitates or allows the inclusion of innumerable chronic pathologies”.
Evangelical health workers always been in favour of the approval of a palliative care law, the AEE says. “The economic provision, promotion and implementation of palliative care units with well-trained teams would made this law largely unneeded", they point out.
A draft regulation to provide better palliative care in Spain has been paused since 2019.
According to a report published in 2021 by the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, on the quality of death, Spain ranked 28th, behind countries that do not have regulations on euthanasia, such as Hungary, Belarus or Botswana.
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