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A patient who has requested euthanasia in Spain. REUTERS
Twenty people a month resort to euthanasia in Spain

Twenty people a month resort to euthanasia in Spain

Most patients who request to die by euthanasia do not receive medical assistance, due to lengthy procedures and differences between regions

Doménico Chiappe

Madrid

Friday, 23 June 2023, 18:47

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Some 370 people died by euthanasia in Spain between June 2021 and December 2022, according to data collected by the association Derecho a Morir Dignamente (Right to Die with Dignity).

"In the first six months, some regions such as Extremadura, Andalucía and Madrid had not developed the necessary regulations to carry out euthanasia; others such as Castilla-La Mancha ended 2021 without carrying out any euthanasia," said Fernando Marín, a doctor and co-ordinator of the personalised care programme of Derecho a Morir Dignamente (DMD).

That first year there were 75 euthanasias and 295 in 2022, according to his calculations. That is 0.07% of deaths; in other words, seven out of every 10,000 people who die do so voluntarily and with medical assistance.

"The number of people will grow because this option of dying will become normalised," said Fernando Sanz, a doctor and DMD activist.

"We have to get used to the idea that it is possible to choose the moment to die under certain circumstances. The important thing is that we have the right. It doesn't matter so much how much. It will always be a minority way of dying. The law itself defines it as exceptional," he added.

The report 'Two years of the euthanasia law: much room for improvement', presented on Wednesday 21 June in Madrid by DMD, states that "the percentage [of people who die by euthanasia] is not homogeneous between regions. While in Navarre, the Basque Country and Catalonia more than one euthanasia was practised for every thousand deaths (0.1%), in other regions such as Murcia, Extremadura and Galicia assisted death had an incidence ten times lower, just over 0.01%. This is a very marked disparity, difficult to explain by socio-cultural differences alone."

"There are people who apply for it and die during the procedure without completing the requirements of the law. It is essential to know, to determine whether there is a lack of accessibility to this right," said Fernando Marín.

The average number of days the legal process takes, DMD estimates, is around 42. One situation that causes distress to those who want an assisted death is that they must spend much of their last days making representations, either to have their right to determine when to die approved or to postpone the date of death that has been decided by the administration.

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