Interview with Carmenza Ochoa Uribe – Executive Director, Fundación Pro Derecho a Morir Dignamente

by | January 27, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Carmenza Ochoa Uribe is the Executive Director of the Fundación Pro Derecho a Morir Dignamente. Here we talk about personal background, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, for example, geography, culture, language, religion or lack of it, education and family structure and dynamics?

Carmenza Ochoa Uribe: I am Colombian by birth, I was born and I have always lived in Bogota, of a large family, of middle class, we speak Spanish, Catholics, educated in a private school of Catholic nuns.

Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of your life? How have you educated yourself informally?

Uribe: I am a dentist by profession, executing clinically for 25 years. Specialist in Bioethics. Diploma in Nonprofit Foundations Management. Numerous courses on palliative care, bereavement support, how to report bad news, communication.

Jacobsen: As Executive Director of Fundación Pro Right to Die Dignitarily (DMD Colombia), what tasks and responsibilities does the job entail?

Uribe: I am the Legal Representative of the Foundation and I must attend to the legal issues related to this title: reports to the Colombian State control and surveillance authorities.

Attend to the public, both those who wish to join our cause, and those who consult for specific situations, requests for dignified death, euthanasia, palliative care, and bereavement support.

Prepare the contents for the publications of the Foundation, quarterly newsletters for our members, disclosure in social networks, emails.

Promote and give conferences, talks and workshops to the community.

Interact with the entities related to the subject of dignified death, establish support networks.

Coordinate the volunteers who support us in administrative tasks.

Organize the events of the Foundation, conferences for our members or for medical personnel, lawyers, psychologists, etc.

Attend interviews for the media.

Attend to college students and univrsitarios, who come to consult their concerns about the issue of dignified death.

And all the others that appear on a day-to-day basis.

In this office, only the administrative assistant and I work.

Jacobsen: What have been the central problems to die with dignity in Colombia? What are the social, cultural and political barriers to the advancement of the right to die, the choice in euthanasia and medical assistance to die?

Uribe: The great problem to die with dignity in Colombia, is the religious problem, the Catholic Church has been a great influence against this cause, there has been progress in accepting the limitation of the therapeutic effort (previously called passive euthanasia) and palliative care. But it is very radical in rejecting euthanasia.

And the population in general follows with fear the dictamen of the church. Politicians are also afraid to confront the church, for fear of losing the votes of Catholics.

Doctors are trained with a very closed mentality, they do not instruct them in their career about the death of their patients, so they see death as an enemy, a failure, a frustration, not like the normal process of the life cycle of living beings.

The ignorance of the Law, the Sentences that decriminalize euthanasia, the regular legal conduit to apply euthanasia in Colombia.

Death is seen as something bad, undesirable, we do not accept that we are all mortal, we do not talk about death in family, doctors do not talk to their patients about the subject of death, they do not like to give bad news, they prefer trick the patient with false recovery alternatives.

Jacobsen: What have been the real victories and the honest failures in the activism and the work of the Right to Dignify Dignity Foundation (DMD Colombia)? How can other organizations that die with dignity learn from these victories and failures?

Uribe: Colombia is a pioneer country in America on the issue of dignified death, has decriminalized euthanasia since 1997, before Holland, inclusive.

We have opened the field to talk about death, we have evidenced the suffering of people at the end of life and the need for adequate attention with a dignified death mentality, not to fight so that they do not die. We have put palliative care in medical curricula.

We have educated health personnel and Colombians to think about the dignified way of death they want to have.

We need to reach many people, many doctors, many health personnel, we must be more aggressive in communicating this cause.

People consult us, because there is no other entity of this type in Colombia, there is no other space to speak clearly about the right to have a dignified death.

We can guide other organizations about our learning and our obstacles.

Jacobsen: Who are the main Colombian opposition to the Right to Dignify Dignity Foundation (DMD Colombia)? What has been the appropriate opposite response for them?

Uribe: If we assume that the Catholic Church is the main opponent of euthanasia, the answer is that Colombia is a secular State, which is based on the Right to Dignity of the person, whose fundamental rights are autonomy, solidarity, the person should not be treated with torture.

Jacobsen: Of the important activist and legal activities of the Right to Dignify Dignity Foundation (DMD Colombia) for 2019, what will they be? What will be the next steps in this area?

Uribe: Expand our communication to all sectors and regions of the country. Search for health personnel to understand that dignified death is a legal right in Colombia, either with euthanasia or with palliative care.

We are making a greater presence in social networks Facebook, Instagram, twitter. Strengthening our website We look for more spaces where to spread our message, in clinics, hospitals, universities, associations of pensioners, etc.

Jacobsen: What relevant books, and activists, artists, authors, philosophers, public intellectuals, scientists would you recommend to readers here?

Uribe: “Die with Dignity” and “A Happy Death” by Hans Kung

From Derek Humphry: “Jean died in his own way”, “The Last Resort” and “The Right to Die”

Atul Gawande: “Be mortal”

Sherwin B. Nuland “How death comes to us”

Elizabeth Kubler Ross all her books.

The books articles of Asunción Alvarez del Río and Arnoldo Kraus in Mexico.

In Colombia the books and articles by Carlos Gaviria Diaz, Juan Mendoza-Vega and Isa Fonnegra de Jaramillo.

Jacobsen: How can people get involved with the donation of time, the addition of members, links to professional and personal networks, monetary disclosure, exposure in interviews or the writing of articles, etc.?

Uribe: They simply express their desire to be donors, time, money, communications and according to the perfirl of people and our capabilities, we interact in solidarity. We are very open to receive voluntary contributions.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or thoughts based on today’s conversation?

Uribe: It has been an interesting exercise to think about the work carried out by the Foundation, its obstacles, challenges and strengths.

It is interesting that a person from Canada wants to know our work.

Jacobsen: Thanks for the opportunity and your time, Carmenza.

Uribe: Thank you for your interest in our Foundation, our work and in me personally.

My best wishes for you.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

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