Inmaculada dies after artificial respirator is turned off

LAST UPDATED: 26 Nov, 2011 @ 23:32
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A WOMAN who had been confined to a hospital bed for ten years has died after doctors turned off her artificial respirator.

Inmaculada Echevarría, who had been suffering from wasting illness muscular dystrophy since 1978, died at 9pm on March 14.

Representatives from the Junta de Andalucía regional government confirmed the artificial respirator had been turned off by doctors at the San Juan de Dios hospital in Granada, in the south of Spain.

The patient had earlier been moved to the public hospital from the San Rafael hospital, which is owned by a religious order, where Inmaculada had been confined to a hospital bed since 1998.

The transfer is thought to have been forced by the Catholic Church. Junta de Andalucía president, Manuel Chaves, said: “The decision to transfer Inmacualda was not taken by officials from San Rafael, but by the Vatican.”

Before the artificial respirator was switched off, Inmaculada had been given a sedative, said the regional government representatives. This was one of the conditions laid down by the Committee of Ethics and Health Research to guarantee her petition to die.

At 11pm, the body of Inmaculada was transferred to the San José cemetery in Granada for cremation, which is expected to take place on the morning of March 16.

Her ashes will then be scattered at an unknown location, as according to one of Inmaculada’s final wishes.

The patient had first made her petition to die on October 16, last year. Speaking at the time, Inmacualda said: “I want this unjust life to end.”

She first showed signs of muscular dystrophy in 1978 and, since 1998, was confined to a hospital bed at the San Rafael hospital in Granada.

Her petition was eventually granted on February 27 after the medical advisory board of the regional government had decided it would be ethical and legal for doctors to turn off the artificial respirator.

Inmacualda’s death has divided Spanish society, with some believing unlawful euthanasia has been carried out. A spokesman for the Spanish Family Forum said: “This is an historic backward step. I have no doubt this is a case of euthanasia.”

Natalia López Moratalla, head of Biochemistry at the University of Navarra, agreed that Inmaculada’s death is a case of “euthanasia, pure and simple” and the Junta de Andalucía should face legal action for granting the patient’s petition.

“Legal permission for euthanasia has been granted in a country in which no legislation about the matter exists.

“It is a macabre joke that officials from the Junta de Andalucía have consented to this. They and the doctors who allowed this euthanasia should be taken to court because their decision was illegal,” she added.

Many have, however, welcomed Inmaculada’s death. Director of Bioethics at UNESCO, María Dolores Vila-Coro claims that keeping Inmaculada alive would have been a case of “obstinate therapy.”

“It is not legitimate keeping someone alive if that patient is refusing treatment,” she said.

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