LIMA (Reuters) - After a long legal battle in Peru for the right of an assisted death, Ana Estrada said she now feels free to avoid suffering from an incurable and debilitating illness that has plagued her for three decades.
The Peruvian Supreme Court this week confirmed a prior ruling that allows Estrada, a 44-year-old psychologist, to end her life after a five-year legal battle and years of illness.
Under Peruvian law, assisting someone's suicide and killing a terminally ill patient are punishable with prison time.
In a deeply Roman Catholic country where abortion and gay marriage remain illegal, the court's decision is seen as a milestone in the debate over euthanasia. In Latin America, only Colombia allows the procedure, but under certain conditions.
"This victory will help me better cope with this imminent, inevitable deterioration of the disease. It will give me peace of mind and calm," she told Reuters.
Estrada suffers from polymyositis, a rare disease that attacks her muscles with a degenerative deterioration. She has spent most of her life lying prostrate in a bed connected to a mechanical respirator and with almost daily assistance from a nurse.
The Supreme Court ruling issued this week ratifies a previous court decision requiring Peru's state health insurance to provide "all the conditions" for Estrada's euthanasia, which must be executed within a period of 10 days from the date she expresses her will to end her life.
The Supreme Court exempted the doctor who eventually supplies a drug intended to end Estrada's life from any punishment.
"Why death with dignity? Because I want to avoid suffering, I want to avoid pain, but above all because this is about life and it is about freedom," Estrada said, lying in bed after her nurse placed a pillow on her.
"Establishing the right to death is a fundamental precedent. It is the first case and it is irrevocable, and it allows Ana Estrada to be able to make a decision to end her life at a certain time," said Walter Gutierrez, Estrada's lawyer and a former ombudsman.
(Reporting by Carlos Valdez of Reuters Television and Marco Aquino; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)