The senate in Argentina overwhelmingly approved on Wednesday a law giving patients who are terminally ill and their families, additional powers to make decisions to end the life of the patient. The law was passed by a unanimous vote with 17 senators not present. Last year, the vote passed the House in Argentina.
Now families in Argentina will not have to try to find judges to hand out court orders requiring doctors to shut off life-support for patients dying or that are in vegetative states. Getting those types of approval is very difficult throughout Latin America, where the Roman Catholic Church is still very strong and opposition is high.
The law was debated for some time in the Senate, but this overwhelming vote of approval was expected because the measure forbids euthanasia expressly. Instead, the law focuses on patients and families rights. It also eliminates any legal responsibility from doctors when they follow the wishes of the patient.
The law is for the terminally ill and patients that are suffering from incurable and irreversible injury of illness, declaring their right to not accept surgical procedures, nutrition and rehydration, life-support and reanimation. Instead of needing a court order, the patient or family must prepare a health care directive in advance and sign it in front of a notary.
Some of the Senators expressed doubt about withdrawing life support or feeding tubes to someone who is unable to communicate any longer.