MEXICO CITY, Mexico – The Mexican capital, just days from officially bringing its new Constitution into law, will make the right to a ‘dignified death’ (or the right of terminally ill civilians to end their own lives) a constitutional right.
Historically, Mexico City, formerly known as the Federal District, was a national entity whose political leadership was determined by federal authorities.
In 1997, however, a constitutional reform finally gave Mexico City residents the right to elect officials to their own legislative assembly, the same right that the residents of the 31 Mexican states had for many years.
Since then, the 9 million residents of Mexico City proper have elected their own representatives and until 2015, they have elected the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) to an absolute majority in the legislative assembly and have made the capital the party’s stronghold, a bastion of socialdemocratic policies in a nation of mostly conservative leanings with the legalization of gay marriage, abortion, recreational marijuana and other contentious topics.
In the June 2015 elections, the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena) or National Regeneration Movement, a socialdemocratic party, took a bite out of the PRD’s capital hegemony. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican left’s most visible figure and former presidential candidate, left the PRD in late 2012 and created Morena shortly thereafter.
Morena made quite an impact as the party won five municipalities (including several of the most important) to the PRD’s six. In the overall popular vote, the PRD won 19.8 percent while Morena established itself as the more popular choice with 23.5 percent of the popular vote.
While the left in the country, dominated for so long by the PRD, has seen its votes split nationally between the two parties (and to a much lesser extent, also between the small Labor Party and Citizens’ Movement), Mexico City remains their stronghold and spiritual center.
On January 31, the representatives of the Mexican capital’s Constituent Assembly are due to present their entity’s Constitution.
The latest addition to the governing document was the subject of euthanasia, which passed the vote in the Mexico City Chamber of Deputies with over 60 percent of the votes in approval of adding the provision to the coming Constitution.
Keeping with the political theme and historical policies of the capital, the Constitution promises to be one of the most progressive in Latin America and will elevate the status of euthanasia to a constitutional right for the first time following the proposal of Jesús Ortega of the PRD.
“This fundamental right, the right of determination and free will, should enable all people to freely and fully exercise their capabilities to live with dignity. The right to a dignified life implicitly contains the right to a dignified death,” reads the newly-added Article 11 of the pending Constitution.
Once the city’s Constitution is ratified in the coming weeks, the legislators will outline the specifics of the euthanasia segment in terms of what sort of cases fall under the legal umbrella and the safeguards that will be put in place.
The rule will not be applied immediately, however; the Constitution itself is set to come into effect on January 1, 2018.
Representatives on behalf of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and Social Encounter (PES), both of which are a very small minority in the capital’s legislative chamber, expressed their opposition to the euthanasia article, as did the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico.
The Information System of the Archdiocese of Mexico (SIAME), the church’s official press office, even went as far as calling the capital “a murderous city.”
“It is not possible for any person, institution or government to think that they have the right to take away the life of another person,” said SIAME in its statement, seemingly ignoring the fact that the law would apply only to the person in question in giving them right to end their life and not anybody else.
Regardless, for the Archdiocese of Mexico, the article of ‘a dignified death’ constitutes a killing: “If science determines that a person is alive but fails to provide the necessary help to keep said person alive, the crime of murder is in essence committed under the guise of ‘letting a person die.'” The Archdiocese said that “Mexico City is converting a crime into a law.”
Ortega, who proposed the article, said that the “sentiment behind the idea is purely through a secular vision,” one that does not “initialize a debate concerning the personal convictions of people, nor their religious character or their morals.”
Regardless of opposition, the article giving all Mexico City residents the right to a ‘dignified death’ was approved and will be in the city’s Constitution. Furthermore, it could be used as a point of reference in similar future endeavors in other Mexican states.
At the moment, Belgium, Colombia, Holland, Luxembourg and Switzerland are the only nations where voluntary euthanasia is legal; in the United States, only five of the fifty states permit the practice.