Ramona Estevez, the 91-year-old Spanish woman whose feeding tube was withdrawn last month, died on Sept. 6 at the Blanca Paloma Hospital in Huelva, Spain.
Estevez suffered a stroke at the end of July, leaving her in a deep coma. On Aug. 23, the Andalusia Health Department granted a request by her family members to remove her feeding tube.
The organization Right to Life in Spain responded by filing two lawsuits, one requesting that the tube be reinserted, and another against the head of the Andalusia Health Department and against Blanca Paloma Hospital for failing to provide care and assisting in a suicide.
The court rejected the lawsuits arguing that Right to Life “is not a party of interest in the procedure and that no proof has been presented of criminal action.”
Bishop Jose Vilaplana of Huelva weighed in on the case recently saying, “(a)ny action aimed at interrupting food and hydration constitutes an act of euthanasia, in which death is produced not through illness but through the bringing about of hunger and thirst.”
Speaking to Europa Press, the woman’s son, Jose Ramon Paez, said the family was carrying out his mother’s wishes. The spokesman for the Socialist Party in Huelva, Mario Jimenez, said the removal of the feeding tube was in accord with the “death with dignity law.”
“The law was followed, which in this country comes before religious ideas,” he said.
In his statement, Bishop Vilaplana said, “We must always be on the side of human life, no matter what its stage of development.”
“We must support those who are last, the weak, the handicapped, in order to ensure that their rights, especially the right to life, are respected,” he continued.
The bishop noted that even though some people have tried to portray the removal of Estevez’s feeding tube as a humane act, “(t)he only duty society has with regard to the sick is help them to live, as life is not something we use and throw away.”
The dignity of human life “must not be linked to the state of consciousness or unconsciousness of someone who is sick,” he said.
“Deliberately seeking out death or inducing it, as Benedict XVI has said so many times, is not the answer to the drama of suffering,” Bishop Vilaplana insisted.