Euthanasia debated in Latvia

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A petition for legalizing euthanasia has appeared at the public initiative website. Healthcare specialists and religious groups are skeptical over the matter.

The initiative was started by designer Pēteris Buks who watched his grandmother suffer.

"I saw an intelligent woman becoming a wreck. [..] I held her hand the night when she was dying. I think it's cruel to make someone suffer like that," he said.

Meanwhile Health Minister Anda Čakša said that it's not a matter of healthcare but also a legal and religious question. Instead of legal euthanasia, there should be more funding for palliative care, currently provided in full only for children.

While Gunita Berķe, head of the Tree of Life foundation for cancer patients, told Latvian Radio that the matter is philosophical and ethical, and she would not support legalizing euthanasia. She too thinks that attention should focus on pain reduction instead.

"If healthcare is good and well-developed, there shouldn't be any talk about [euthanasia]," she said.

Religious groups also have a say. Archbishop Janis Vanags, the leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, told LETA that medics shouldn't be forced to kill people.

"It is important to live through life in its entirety," he said.

Euthanasia became a topic of public debate following a series of LTV reports about Viesturs Bundža, a cancer patient who collected donations for assisted suicide but died before he could go to Switzerland where doctors would help him die.

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