Peruvian woman says quest for right to die taught her the value of life

By Paula Bayarte

Lima, Mar 12 (EFE).- Ana Estrada may be on the verge of a definitive victory in the Peruvian courts that would allow her to decide when to end her life, but she says that whatever the outcome, her struggle to establish a right to death with dignity has made life much more precious to her.

“This campaign has actually enriched my life. So regardless of the results, of the final results of the hearing, everything has been positive,” the 45-year-old psychologist told Efe.

She was only 12 when doctors diagnosed her with polymyositis, an incurable degenerative disease that causes muscle weakness. For Estrada, the weakness is severe enough to hamper breathing and she must spend most of the day connected to a respirator.

Acknowledging that euthanasia remains taboo in Catholic Peru, she takes satisfaction from having at least made it a topic of discussion.

“The debate started and what I wanted was, whether it was for or against, I wanted it to be talked about,” she said. “That’s what this is about. It’s not about us all thinking the same. I don’t want to convince anyone of anything, it’s about respect, about respect for the individual rights of citizens, it’s a right.”

In 2015, Estrada’s condition deteriorated to the point where she was hospitalized for six months in intensive care and she has remained essentially bedridden since then.

Though medicine offers treatments for polymyositis, Estrada’s research led her to conclude that none of them would be of much help in her case.

Three years ago, she launched a blog as a platform to express herself, with no thought of persuading anyone, much less becoming an activist for euthanasia.

But the response was positive, as even people opposed in principle to euthanasia were moved to empathize with Estrada’s plight.

“I don’t want to die now,” she said. “I have been preparing my path and I didn’t want to arrive at a moment in which I would have to pray for my death. I didn’t want that.”

As her blogging evolved into activism, Estrada’s legal bid to be allowed to decide the time and circumstances of her demise made its way through the courts.

And in February 2021, a judge in Lima ruled that Estrada could make plans to end her life without being charged under Peru’s law against mercy killing.

To Estrada’s surprise and relief, the Peruvian government declined to appeal the decision.

But in January, just as Peru’s Supreme Court was expected to confirm the decision, the Peruvian Palliative Care Society filed a motion challenging the judgment, so Ana must now await the ruling of the nation’s highest tribunal.

Once the Supreme Court rules, Estrada told Efe, “a new debate begins, of what the administration of justice is like and what judges are like in Peru.” EFE pbc/dr

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