Argentine Senate approves 'Dignified Death' law


View of the Senate Plenary Session chaired by Vice President Amado Boudou during discussions about the expropriation of YPF, on April 25, 2012 in Buenos Aires.


Daniel Garcia

The Argentine Senate approved a new "Dignified Death" law that provides terminally ill patients and their families more choices with their end-of-life decisions.

According to USA Today, the law only applies to the terminally ill as well as patients suffering from irreversible and incurable illness or injury. It gives patients and their families the right to refuse surgical procedures, hydration and nutrition, reanimation and life-support systems. The law strickly forbids euthanasia.

According to The Washington Post, the law passed by a vote of 55 to zero, with 17 senators declaring themselves absent.

Angel Robles, a 71-year-old retired taxi driver with terminal esophageal cancer, told The Washington Post, "I think it’s very good. If I’m OK, these are things that I have to decide. But if not, I have confidence in my daughter.”

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If patients can no longer speak or make decisions for themselves and have not provided written instructions for their wishes, the decision rights move to family members and legal guardians. 

The BBC reported the Roman Catholic Church rejected the new legislation, arguing that life support should never be stopped. Several Argentinean senators expressed concern about withdrawing feeding tubes and ending life support from a patient unable to communicate.

Conservative PRO party member Julian Obligo pleaded with senators, according to USA Today, to eliminate the reference to removing feeding tubes. He believes that it amounts to euthanasia by hastening death. Senator Sonia Escudero alleged that by withdrawing nutrition and hydration, it would make death more painful.

Dan Brock, who teaches medical ethics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., told USA Today, "You make their time more comfortable, not less, when they are near death. All the evidence suggests they are not suffering."

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