Colombian Bishops Lament Court’s Approval of Assisted Suicide

By a 6-3 vote, the Colombian Constitutional Court decriminalized assisted suicide May 11. Euthanasia for terminally ill adults has been allowed in Colombia since 2015.

Colombian flag waves in the wind.
Colombian flag waves in the wind. (photo: Diego Grandi / Shutterstock)

The Colombian Bishops’ Conference said it was deeply pained by the Constitutional Court’s Wednesday ruling decriminalizing assisted suicide and urged the authorities to make decisions aimed at protecting life “and not its destruction.”

By a 6-3 vote, the Colombian Constitutional Court decriminalized assisted suicide May 11. Judges Alejandro Linares, Gloria Ortiz, Diana Fajardo, Natalia Ángel Cabo and Antonio José Lizarazo voted in favor, and Jorge Enrique Ibáñez, Cristina Pardo and Paola Meneses voted against. Lizarazo was in charge of presenting the case to the court.

With its ruling, the court accepted the lawsuit that Lucas Correa Montoya and Camila Jaramillo Salazar of the Laboratory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights filed in challenge to Section 2 of Article 107 of the Penal Code. The case was admitted for consideration by the court Sept. 1, 2021.

The section that the court declared unconstitutional penalized a violation with 16 to 36 months in prison “when the inducement or aid [to commit suicide] is aimed at putting an end to intense suffering resulting from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease.”

In a May 12 statement, the Colombian Bishops’ Conference pointed out that, following the teaching of the Church and “its fundamental option to fully serve the human being (...), it receives with profound pain the decision of the Constitutional Court in favor of Medically Assisted Suicide.”

The bishops called on the country’s authorities to be “consistent with the inviolable value of human life, as enshrined in the Colombian Constitution,” so that ”the decisions that are made are aimed at its protection, defense and care and not at its destruction.”

“As a society we are called to receive life and preserve it with gratitude; to choose, in all circumstances, the necessary human, scientific and spiritual means to surround it with meaning and value,” they pointed out.

The bishops expressed solidarity with people who are suffering and recalled that “it’s important to translate the love of Christ into concrete gestures of prayer, affection, service and accompaniment in the face of pain, like the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, who healed the wounds of his brother in need with heartfelt mercy, using the ‘oil of consolation and the wine of hope.’”

The bishops urged those suffering “to reject the temptation, sometimes induced by legislative changes, to use medicine to cause death.”

They reaffirmed that “no health care worker can be forced to collaborate in the death of others; his conscience prevents him. The fundamental right to personal conscientious objection must always be guaranteed, as well as the safeguarding of the principles of the mission and vision of the Institutions in accordance with their nature, which identifies them in favor of life.”

"We understand that, based on the principle of human dignity, there is no ‘fundamental right to a dignified death,’ but rather the right to life. The pastors of the Church reiterate, therefore, our commitment to be proclaimers of the Gospel of life and hope,” they said.

Euthanasia for terminally ill adults has been allowed in Colombia since 2015, after the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Health to approve the protocol for this practice. It had first ruled in favor of euthanasia in 1997.

In October 2017 the court extended euthanasia to minors with a terminal illness, and in July 2021, the court extended euthanasia to people with non-terminal illnesses.