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Ramón Sampedro

Ramón Sampedro
Born Ramón Sampedro Cameán
(1943-01-05)January 5, 1943
Porto do Son, Galicia, Spain
Died January 12, 1998(1998-01-12) (aged 55)
Boiro, Galicia, Spain
Cause of death
Assisted suicide
Nationality Spanish
Occupation Fisherman
Known for Right-to-die case

Ramón Sampedro Cameán (5 January 1943 – 12 January 1998) was a Spanish fisherman and writer. Sampedro became a quadriplegic at the age of 25 (23 August 1968), following a diving accident, and fought for his right to an assisted suicide for the next 29 years.

Demand for suicide

As a young man he had jumped into the sea from rocks near his home, a fishing village in the northern Spanish region of Galicia. Misjudging the water's depth, he struck his head on the bottom. He sustained a complete spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Ramon tried Spain's lower courts, its higher courts, even the European Commission on Human Rights in Strasbourg to end his life. His argument hinged on the fact that he was sure of his decision to die. However, owing to his paralysis, he was physically unable to commit suicide without help. He argued that suicide was a right that he was being denied, and he sought legal advice concerning his right to receive assistance to end his life, first in the courts of Spain, where his case attracted country-wide attention. Eventually, his fight became known worldwide.

Death and aftermath

Sampedro died on Monday 12 January 1998 in Boiro, Spain, from potassium cyanide poisoning. Several days later, a close friend of Ramón, Ramona Maneiro, was arrested and charged with assisting his suicide. Sampedro had divided the elements required to complete his suicide into individual tasks, each small enough that no single person could be convicted of assisting the suicide process entirely. Maneiro was released due to lack of evidence. No further charges were ever filed in connection with Ramón's death.

Seven years later, after the statute of limitations had expired, Maneiro, speaking on a Spanish talk show, admitted to providing Sampedro with a cyanide-laced drink and a straw. She said "I did it for love." She also said she had turned on the video camera that recorded Ramón's last words before he drank the poison and that she was in the room, behind the camera.

He left an open letter to the judges and the society and caused an ethical turmoil in the Spanish society which led to a Senatorial Committee on Euthanasia in 1999.

Mar adentro

The story of Sampedro's life and death was made into a Spanish film, Mar adentro (English title: The Sea Inside) (2004), in which he was portrayed by Javier Bardem. The movie drew international attention and won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 77th Academy Awards.

He wrote a book before he died titled Cartas desde el infierno (Letters from Hell). It is in Spanish and includes a collection of poems, short essays, and reflections on life from Sampedro’s point of view.

Further reading

  • Sampedro, Ramón (1996). Cartas desde el infierno [Letters From Hell] (in Spanish). Planeta. ISBN 84-08-05632-8. 
  • Sampedro, Ramón (1998). Cando eu caia [When I Fall] (in Galician). Edicións Xerais. ISBN 8483022605. 

External links

  • "Live and Let Die". TIME. January 26, 1998.  Article by Rod Usher in TIME magazine written shortly after Sampedro's death.

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