The debate over euthanasia has become a prominent issue in the Spanish general election campaign after a 70-year-old man was arrested for helping his terminally-ill wife to end her life.
Ángel Hernández spent Thursday night, his first without María José Carrasco, in a Madrid police cell after confessing to administering a lethal drug dose to the long-term multiple sclerosis sufferer, who was 61.
The widower has since appeared in court and been granted release subject to further enquiries, but not without rekindling a controversy about the right to die in the traditionally Catholic country.
“The police told me ‘it’s the law’, but they would have done the same thing themselves. Yes, it’s the law, but it is wrong and it should have been resolved a long time ago,” Mr Hernández told El País newspaper.
“I could have done it secretly,” he added. “I argued about that with my wife, who was a legal secretary and knew what could happen to me. But I convinced her that it was important for this to come out, not for her anymore, but for the people who are still left behind.”
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez promised to legalise euthanasia if he wins a parliamentary majority on 28th April and blamed centre-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens) and right-wing People’s Party (PP) for blocking a bill aimed at legislating for the right to die.
The Socialist Party (PSOE) leader told Spanish television that he was “overcome with emotion and somewhat outraged” by the arrest.
He condemned a Spanish congress standing committee, controlled by Ciudadanos and the PP, for holding up the legislation “on as many as 19 occasions” and suggested that, although the case in question is in currently the hands of the judiciary, he would pardon Mr Hernández.
Meanwhile, Albert Rivera, leader of Ciudadanos, said he would seek to establish a consensus on the issue if he were elected but criticised the prime minister for “using the case for political gain".
The PP unequivocally stated it is “against euthanasia”. Just before her death, the couple filmed a video to prove that it was Ms Carrasco who had decided to end her life.
She had reached the terminal stage of her illness and had lost the movement in her hands. Assisted suicide has been a contentious issue in Spain for more than two decades.
The story of Ramón Sampedro, a tetraplegic from the north-western region of Galicia who ended his life in 1998, raised awareness about the plight of those wanting to end their life. It was immortalised in Alejandro Amenábar’s 2004 film ‘The Sea Inside’.
Spain would be the fourth country in Europe to legalise euthanasia, following Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The practice is also lawful in Canada and some American states.
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