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Euthanasia legalization discussed in Latvian Saeima

 Should a person who is incurably ill and suffering pain be allowed to die of free will? Discussions on euthanasia have moved to the Saeima, and there is a lack of consensus among Members, Latvian Television reported March 3.

At the beginning of February, the public initiative portal Manabalss.lv collected the necessary 10,000 signatures on the initiative to legalize euthanasia in Latvia. Before making decisions, parliamentarians still want to listen to medics and experts.

Euthanasia is an intentionally induced death of another person with the aim of ending this person's inevitable suffering and pain. It is not allowed in Latvia, but it is permitted  in several other European countries. It must be a voluntary and diagnostic choice. But how does one evaluate it? Will the doctors be prepared to carry it out? These issues were the most heated debate among Members.

“It will not be an easy decision for the doctor himself to participate in this procedure. I can simply say this as a veterinarian, because animals are euthanized and it is a legal procedure in Latvia, but it is also not an easy decision,” said Ilmārs Dūrītis (Development/For!), deputy of the Saeima Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Commission.

Normunds Žunna (New Conservative Party), Member of the Saeima Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Commission, said: "Untreatable patients (..) without hope of recovery – you see, these words are so controversial. It has to be understood how many people would need it.”

Meanwhile, the assistant of the Chairman of the Saeima Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Commission, Vitālijs Orlovs (Harmony), said: “I was taught to fight for the lives of each patient. I could not, for any costs, help a person who makes such a decision.”

Pēteris Buks, author of the “Par labu nāvi” (For a good death) initiative, started collecting signatures for his nearly 90-year-old grandmother, who couldn't be cured and suffered a great deal of pain.

“From the deputies of the Saeima, I think it's unlikely anyone had come to the bed of such a sick person and seen it themselves. As far as I have spoken to people, then those who have seen it all themselves are clearly for it. Those who haven't seen, they are indecisive,” Buks said.

However, the fact that the initiative has collected 10,000 signatures is showing that it is important for society and that the society wants to address it.

“People think this will open a can of worms, but Holland has 17 million inhabitants and 6,000 euthanasia cases. This means that in Latvia these could be about 600 cases. We have ten times fewer people. 600 cases – this is less than disability groups,” said Pēteris Buks.

Several members pointed out that all should be done to avoid euthanasia and it should not be a patch for a poor palliative care system, while opponents said that in countries with modern palliative care systems euthanasia is permitted and all diseases cannot be cured.

After half an hour of debate, it is decided to refer the matter again, inviting doctors reanimatologists and palliative care professionals to participate.

Signatures on euthanasia legalization were collected for nearly four years. In Latvia, the issue had previously been raised at the end of 2016, when the public donated €10,000 so that the lethally ill Viesturs Bundža may fulfill his last wish and could go to Switzerland for euthanasia. But Viesturs Bundža died before that could happen.

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