Ana Estrada managed to get the State to recognize her right to die. She lives in Peru, a country where people of the same sex cannot marry and where voluntary termination of pregnancy is illegal and therefore a crime. There, euthanasia and assisted death are punishable by up to three years in prison. But she received a sentence in her favor. On February 22, the Justice authorized her to access the procedure when she decides to do so. It is enough that you notify it so that the practice is carried out in ten business days. No one appealed the sentence.
But when did Ana Estada’s story begin? 32 years ago, when you were just 12 and your left arm would not give in flexion? The swimming teacher shouted: “Ana! What’s wrong with you? Stretch it!” But she, tiny and suspended in the water, couldn’t. Or two years later, when they got the diagnosis? “Polymyositis,” said the doctor. It is an autoimmune disease, which attacks the muscles little by little until the sufferer loses strength, remains immobile. That is: he cannot walk and is dependent on a wheelchair; he cannot sit up and begins to see the world from an orthopedic bed.
Perhaps the story of Ana Estrada began “during”. During the visit of a shaman, he rubbed her with herbs and left her with an unforgettable allergy. During the pricks or the extractions of bits of muscle for analysis in the laboratory, which left her sore. During the corticosteroids, the MRIs, the rheumatologist, the physiotherapy, the loss of that first adolescent love …
Or perhaps when he understood that his immune system did not distinguish between what was good and what was bad, and he defended himself by attacking himself? Between the ages of 14 and 20, Ana Estrada decided to investigate what was wrong with her. In eight years she became an expert in the disease that consumed her.
In 2015, he had the life he had wanted. At 38, he lived in a nice house with Amaro, his kitten. He had become a psychoanalyst and cared for his patients. He spent time with his friends, visited his parents, saw up close how his brother started a family. The polymyositis progressed, he was already using a wheelchair and depended on the care of an assistant. But she says she was happy, that she felt loved. I only noticed some shortness of breath, a sudden and devastating tiredness. Until June came and he caught a cold.
“My respiratory muscles began to lose strength. Actually, I had already investigated it and a part of me knew that this was the last stage of my disease. But I had calculated it for 50 years and not 38 when I was achieving everything. that I had proposed, “wrote Ana in her Blog. It is a diary that has been since she decided to make her wish public, in 2019: to die how, when and where she wants.
That cold led to pharyngitis and then bronchitis. Ana weighed 35 kilos: her body rejected food. On July 18, 2015, her brother found her on the verge of drowning. He gave up the wheelchair to lift it up as if he were holding a baby. He took her as fast as he could to a clinic. On the way, she was ventilated with a manual respirator that Ana had bought against her will: she was reluctant to believe that the end was near. They intubated her. Has the story of Ana Estrada started at that time?
The bronchitis ended in pneumonia. She was hospitalized for six months in intensive care at Reblagiati hospital, a public institution. His body was not only sick but it was another: a tracheostomy at the level of the clavicles and a gastrostomy, a hole through which a feeding tube passes into the stomach. Over time, Ana gained weight. What ensued was depression. That is also a milestone in his life story.
It is difficult to determine when Ana’s story began, but it is possible to affirm that her case is the first in Peru. In the world, there were similar cases: people who had to judicialize their desire to avoid clandestine euthanasia, which exists. Gloria Taylor, for example, asked for it before the Courts of Canada, where she lived. He died in 2012, before the failure was known, due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, the disease he suffered from. But his story was the trigger for the right to die to be legal.
It is now Monday March 14th. It is 12 noon in Buenos Aires and 10 in Lima. Ana Estrada greets elDiarioAR. Thousands of kilometers away, from land and fiber optics, there is a woman lying on her bed, short black hair, dark eyes and such a sweet smile. “Now I am … After the ruling and especially after the prosecutors do not appeal, I am happy. They have taken a load off my shoulders. I am no longer afraid,” he says.
What are you no longer afraid of?
I think that knowing what is going to happen, that I once again have the power to decide what I can do. That gives me peace of mind, doesn’t it? The sentence, in reality, has been to recognize the power that I have over my life. Actually, I already had it. And not only I, the human being has it, because it is natural that it has it. But in certain circumstances, like mine for example, you feel that you don’t have that freedom. And here the judge has recognized that I do have it. It is not that they gave it to me, but that they recognized my right and that is invaluable to me.
How did your life change after that hospitalization in 2015?
Before I lived alone but after I got sick, my parents, who are 80 years old, moved into my house. The program that gives me Health (refers to the public health system), supplies me with what I need. I have permanent assistance from a nurse. Right now I can sit for about four hours a day. The rest of the time, I must lie down. I gained weight because I have a tracheostomy that makes it easy to pass secretions. I’ll be at 50 kilos, more or less. I feel good physically, I am well cared for.
At what point did you start thinking about the right to die?
When I interned for the second time, in 2016. I realized that this was no longer life. I was very depressed at the time. But later, when I recovered emotionally, I realized that it was not the illness that made me suffer, but this impediment from the state. What the state was telling me is that I had no right to decide about my own life. And in 2017 I started asking lawyers, doctors … They all told me it was “impossible”. I started looking abroad. I wanted to know what alternatives there were. It was two years of personal search and investigation, alone, with the tablet, asking and asking.
In an interview you said that they offered you to manage it in hiding.
It was when I still did not make it public. I looked here to do it clandestinely. And I found a couple of people who do those kinds of jobs in exchange for a sum of money.
How much money?
By 2017, about 3,000 soles, which would be 1,300 dollars. I know there are people who do. Clandestine euthanasia exists. I decided not to do it because it was very sad, it was very sad to reach that point, very risky.
They explained to me how I had to do it. But it would have been terrible… terrible. On the one hand, I was not going to leave calm knowing that later my environment was going to have problems. On the other, they told me that I had to have good veins for the medicine to pass. I thought about that too: “What if I don’t have a good vein and the medicine doesn’t pass? What if I stay in the middle?”
When you made your wish public, how did your family accompany you?
They understood why they are more than 30 years of illness. They have seen how my body deteriorated over the years and although I was the one who was in intensive care, my family was also there. They happened what I have lived. So they will always want me to be well, for me to be calm. Like when we looked everywhere for treatments or when they supported me in other things in my life: the career in the university, the postgraduate.
Did it cost to make it public?
I’ve taken care of my parents all this time. I have never had them interviewed, I do not post photos of them, nor do I mention them. Why? Because here the one who faces the face is me. They are proud now of what I have accomplished. And on the way I met people who did not let me go.
And in society in general?
When this became media, when the judge’s sentence came out, all the attacks came. Right now there are elections in Peru and all the candidates are talking about euthanasia. This is partly good, because the subject is being played when it has never been touched before. But that also has a cost: my name is being used by a person, one of the candidates, ultra-conservative … And it is very dangerous. From him and his people on social media, I do get a lot of attacks. (He refers to Rafael López-Aliaga, a 60-year-old millionaire owner of various companies and shareholder of the train operator that leads to the Inca stone citadel of Machu Picchu. Estrada does not name him)
What kind of attacks?
And … they give me orders. They tell me: “Okay, kill yourself.” But women already know how it is, historically they have not said what we have and what we do not have to do. Now they are telling me to do what they tell me. Of course, they have not read my case. Because I have not fought to die, I have fought for my freedom, for my time and for my space. I have fought for my life, not for wanting to die.
But isn’t there something more to that imperative?
It’s like … public hangings, do you remember seeing that in a movie? They would hang someone and people would go to see. Here they are also asking for the “spectacle of death”. They don’t know anything about me, but they ask for the show: “Now, give me the complete show. I already saw your sentence now I want to see your death.”
Ana Estrada laughs. He does it with difficulty and with grace. The medical practice you requested is euthanasia. This has an explanation: since your mobility is so limited, a doctor must do the procedure. I ask him under what circumstances would he make the decision, now that Justice has enabled it. “When I can’t do what I’m doing right now: talking. When I have to be connected to the ventilator for 24 hours and I can’t breathe on my own. When I can’t do that, then I won’t be able to bear it anymore,” he says. Ana still writes her own story.