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'Death With Dignity': Historic Legal Case As Woman Sues For Right To End Her Life

After spending months in an ICU unit four years ago to treat her incurable and debilitating illness, Ana Estrada, 43, decided that at some point in the future she would want to die before it got worse.

But two crimes under Peruvian law stand in her way: assisted suicide and 'pious homicide,' both punished with prison time. Now she's trying to get a judge to let her die, what she calls "death with dignity.".

Ana Estrada wants to legally be able to end her own life. Image: Reuters

"I contemplated doing it illegally," Estrada told Reuters from her bed, where she was helped by a nurse.

But there was risk...because I cannot let someone help me die. I cannot ask a relative to commit a crime.

In this deeply Catholic country, where abortion and gay marriage remain illegal and divisive, Estrada and her lawyers see the fight to legalize euthanasia as a frontier from which to expand on civil liberties.

Euthanasia is not widely allowed globally and the Catholic Church remains a staunch opponent. But in Latin America, Colombia has allowed it under certain conditions.

She is living with an incurable illness. Image: Reuters

Lawyers from Peru's public ombudsman's office have taken up Estrada's case, arguing that not letting her choose to die is unconstitutional.

Peru's public ombudsman Walter Gutierrez said at a press conference, that not letting Estrada die violates her right to dignity, which is afforded under Peru's Constitution. And it's important to sue to jumpstart broader reforms.

Estrada has lived since puberty with polymyolitis, a condition that atrophies her muscles and has no cure. She is bed-ridden and breathes most of the time through a ventilator attached to her trachea, which quashes her voice.

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Living With The Choice To Die: What We Can Learn From Paralympian's Euthanasia Death

Paralympian Marieke Vervoort has ended her life via euthanasia more than 10 years after she signed the paperwork seeking to die voluntarily.

Her case gained prominence from a blog where she talked about her illness, which she typed out slowly, letter by letter as her muscles lost strength.

"Why death with dignity? Because I want to avoid the suffering," Estrada said. "But most of all because this is about how I live my life, about liberty. I do not feel free right now, I don't have the freedom to choose over my own body," she added.

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