[JURIST] The Mexican Senate [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday approved [official record] a bill [materials, in Spanish] that would amend the General Law of Health [text, in Spanish] to allow terminally ill patients to refuse medical treatment. The bill passed with 84 votes in favor and only one abstention. Under the new law, a patient who has an incurable, irreversible disease and a life expectancy prognosis of less than six months may exercise the right by raising the case in front of a hospital bioethics committee. The patient’s family may alternatively assert the right if the patient is incapacitated. The law’s provisions ensure that the patient will receive palliative treatment that does not delay or speed death, but will ease physical and emotional pain and discomfort. Although the treatments described by the law are known as passive euthanasia, the senators were careful to distance themselves from the term by characterizing [AP report] the law as one respecting patients’ dignity and autonomy. La Jornada has local coverage, in Spanish.
The initiative for the law stems from the Mexican Health Department's 2007 proposal [text, DOC, in Spanish] that measures should be created to respect patients' autonomy about treatment when they are terminally ill. In November 2007, the Mexico City Legislative Assembly (ALDF) [official website, in Spanish] approved a similar measure called the Law of Anticipated Will, which allows patients to determine in advance the treatment they wish to receive if terminally ill or incapacitated. The present initiative was supported [El Observador report, in Spanish ] by the Catholic Church in Mexico from its initial stages in the ALDF, in contrast to a law decriminalizing abortion [JURIST report] that was passed last year.