Among all the letters that I have received in my life there is one that I keep with special affection. They are only four words on a page; They are written in ballpoint pen, in irregular and shaky handwriting, full of bumps in the line, but they can be read clearly. And he says, “Thank you very much. Ramón Sampedro ”.
I don’t know if the new generations will know who Ramón Sampedro was. Maybe yes for Out to sea, that marvel of an Oscar-winning movie that Amenábar made about him in 2004. I will say anyway that Ramón was born in 1943; A merchant sailor by profession, at the splendid age of 25 he dove into the sea from a rock in his native Galicia and broke his neck. He was left quadriplegic and lived in these horrendous conditions for almost three decades. Starting in 1993, that is, after spending 25 years imprisoned in his own body, he began to claim his right to a dignified death. He asked that the tubes that fed him be removed, or that a doctor give him the necessary drugs. It did not succeed. Finally, in 1998, helped by friends, he was able to sip cyanide through a straw. “Today, tired of institutional neglect, I am forced to die in secret, like a criminal,” he said in his farewell video. He was the first Spaniard to put the issue of euthanasia before our noses. I published an article talking about his terrible struggle, and that’s why he sent me that letter written with his mouth. I treasure it.
He has not been the only one for whom the new euthanasia law has come too late. So much suffering, and so unnecessary. And not only in Spain, of course. A couple of weeks ago, a woman finally killed in Colombia whose case has marked a milestone in her country, just as Sampedro did here. I’m talking about Yolanda Chaparro, 71, diagnosed three ago with ALS, a cruel disease that ends up paralyzing you. Colombia has an ambiguous situation regarding euthanasia and that made the doctors deny Yolanda help, arguing that she still had to deteriorate much more; that, in order to die, she first had to be completely bedridden, having lost her speech, needing help with everything and not being able to chew. How? But what part of the “right to a dignified death” did the damn Colombian doctors not understand? It is precisely all that, all that terror and horror, that euthanasia should save us.
Human beings are quite absurd. We never think about death, although it is the only certainty we have of our future. Death is part of life, and it is precisely out of respect for life that the right to a good death must be regulated. That is, to an exit worthy of extreme suffering. The euthanasia law does not oblige anyone, it only cares and helps. This is something so obvious that it is difficult for me to understand the 141 votes against the law. Nor do I understand that now those of the PP argue that it is better to strengthen palliative care and dependency, when they have opposed legislating palliation on three occasions and have cut 12,000 million euros in dependency. Anyway, I think they have lost the opportunity to do something good and great.
Because for me it is moving and exciting to be able to live the historic milestone of the approval of such a law. It has been promoted by the PSOE and I appreciate it, but in any case it is one of those essential, transversal and nonpartisan laws that belong to all of society (and to all of humanity) and that we have earned by maturing as a country: according to the CIS, the 82% of the Spanish are in favor. Years will pass, few years, and the evident justice and necessity of the regulation of euthanasia will be something as indisputable as the laws that gave the vote to women or that abolished slavery.
Death from ingestion of cyanide can take between 10 minutes and an hour and is very painful: you feel like you are burning inside and that you are suffocating. In his final video, Ramón Sampedro said: “I consider that living is a right, not an obligation. I have been forced to endure this painful situation (…). Only time and the evolution of consciences will one day decide if my request was reasonable or not ”. And here we are, dear Ramón. Yes, it was reasonable. They have won love of neighbor and life.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.