A Madrid court has released a 70-year-old man who admitted to helping his 61-year-old wife end her life, a case that has reignited a debate about assisted suicide in Spain, where it remains illegal.
Angel Hernandez said his wife, Maria Jose Carrasco, was diagnosed 30 years ago with multiple sclerosis and had for years asked him to help her die. He made a video of his wife’s last days.
“I recounted (to the judge) everything I did for my wife,” Hernandez said after leaving court late Thursday, a day after his arrest and his wife’s death.
The court released Hernandez after a preliminary hearing. The judge said in a statement that Carrasco was in a terminal phase of illness and said Hernandez admitted helping his wife commit suicide. It did not explain the motive for his release from custody.
A judicial investigation into the case is continuing
Right-to-die groups supported Hernandez’s choice. Fernando Marin, vice president of the Right to Die with Dignity association, said Carrasco was in pain and despaired of waiting for a euthanasia law to be passed. Left-of-center parties have tried on a dozen occasions to pass legislation to facilitate assisted dying since 1997.
“Many people are waiting for regulations on their right to die to come out, and not getting on with it is irresponsible,” Marin said of the parliamentary process, according to Spanish private news agency Europa Press.
The Spanish Bishops’ Conference reiterated its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia, though its spokesman Luis Arguello urged support for people in despair.
“I’m not saying anyone in this case should go to prison,” he told a news conference. “What I’m saying is we have to provide support for all options other than the view that death is the solution.”
The case has rippled through the campaign for Spain’s April 28 general election.
Government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said Friday that the outgoing socialist government had been trying to bring a legislative proposal on euthanasia for debate in parliament since last year, but that it was repeatedly postponed.
The main opposition and conservative Popular Party has long opposed any relaxation of the law.
Albert Rivera, leader of the pro-business Citizens party, said if he was elected he would try to build political consensus around a proposal for rules on euthanasia.