Spain: where the right to die can trump the right to justice

“I am a paraplegic. I have 45 stitches in my hand. I can’t move my left arm well. I have screws in my body and I can’t feel from the chest down,” Marin Eugen Sabau told a judge in Catalonia. He wanted to be euthanized and his reasons seemed as valid as any other candidate for death with dignity. The judge agreed, and Sabau’s request was processed with unusual speed. A date has been set – July 28.

However, another judge issued a temporary stay and Sabau’s death was delayed.

In Catalonia, euthanasia is far from rare. Since euthanasia was legalized in Spain in June last year, 60 of the country’s 172 cases have taken place in this region, more than a third, despite Catalonia having just 16% of the population. total.

However, Mr. Sabau’s case is exceptional, even unprecedented, as he awaits trial for attempted murder and a host of other charges. If he were euthanized, he would escape justice.

On December 14 last year, Mr Sabau, a 45-year-old Romanian who worked as a security guard, put on an awkward woman’s wig, entered his workplace in Tarragona and shot three of his colleagues . Then he fled the scene and barricaded himself in an abandoned farmhouse. During a shootout with the police, one of them was injured. Eventually, snipers incapacitated Mr. Sabau, shooting him in the back, arm and leg. He became a paraplegic and had a leg amputated.

His request for euthanasia was approved. The judge said the case presented a “collision of fundamental rights”. But she ruled that Mr. Sabau’s right to die with dignity should prevail over the victims’ right to justice.

She said only minors and mentally ill patients who cannot give informed consent are not eligible for euthanasia under the law.

The policeman had already appealed against Mr. Sabau’s euthanasia and the judge rejected it. But when she took her vacation leave, another judge agreed to grant a reprieve. The case continues.

Elna M. Lemons