In December 2021, Spain bore witness to a crime in which Marin Eugen Sabau shot three of his co-workers and fled. After a two-hour standoff with police, he was finally captured and arrested. In the fray, police subdued him with gunfire, and he suffered an irreversible spinal cord injury.
From prison, where he is awaiting trial because he is considered a flight risk, Sabau has asked to be euthanized, a measure that would mean he would never face his victims in court. All of them survived, but suffered serious injuries.
The prison system has signed off on starting the administrative process for the euthanasia, while the local police association has filed a motion in court to stop it, according to the Spanish newspaper ABC.
Now the country faces a juridical dilemma—to honour a personal right or to honour the right of victims and society to justice.
Spain legalized euthanasia in 2021. According to the law, euthanasia is a “personal right” that can be exercised by adults who suffer a fatal diagnosis, unbearable suffering, or an irreversible crippling condition. It requires a simple administrative process and a medical evaluation to complete.
ABC reports that according to the lawyer Alejandro Gámez from the Illustrious Bar Association of Barcelona, euthanasia is an intensely personal liberty that prevails over all others, while the right of society to a full criminal procedure is not.
The police association contends that the penitential system cannot allow a prisoner awaiting trial to be euthanized and avoid trial because it has the duty to serve the justice sought in criminal proceedings.
In a motion filed with the courts on behalf of the Catalan police force, and seen by ABC, their lawyer argues that approving the euthanasia of Sabau is contrary to purpose of provisional imprisonment and the penitential system. This purpose, they say, is “none other than to leave to judicial disposition an investigated or prosecuted person. Practicing euthanasia by someone who has the obligation to ensure that the prisoner is available to the court is an unjustifiable decision.”
The police officers’ lawyer, José Antonio Bitos, also stressed to the newspaper that accepting the gunman’s request to end his life would violate the victims’ right to effective judicial protection by preventing Sabau from being judged and condemned.
“An alleged murderer cannot avoid either trial or conviction by euthanasia. It must be the judicial body that agrees on all the necessary protection measures to avoid it,” states the motion filed by Bitos.
Now it is in the hands of the judge.