MEXICO CITY, December 5, 2007 ( – The legislature of Mexico City, the largest city in Mexico and in the western hemisphere, yesterday passed an “Anticipated Death” law that will allow patients diagnosed as terminally ill to refuse life-prolonging measures.

Although the law expressly prohibits active euthanasia, it is unclear if it will prohibit passive euthanasia in the form of withholding nutrition or hydration from patients, although pro-life groups in the country are not objecting to the bill.

The danger of such an application is increased by the fact that the law provides for “living wills” and allows relatives of unconscious patients to decide to withhold treatments.  Such arrangements have resulted in serious abuses in the United States and Europe, including the starvation deaths of helpless patients such as Terri Schiavo.

However, the representatives of the more pro-life National Action Party (PAN) voted in favor of the bill, along with representatives of the socialist Democratic Revolution Party and the center-left Institutional Revolutionary Party, making passage unanimous.

“This initiative covers ‘ortotanasia’, which basically means ‘between curing and caring’…we are not talking about terminating the life of anyone, but about the quality they want to have at the end of their lives,” said PAN deputy Paula Soto. 

Hugo Valdemar, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico, told the Mexico City newspaper El Universal that the diocese was not opposing the law, but was concerned that it takes a first step towards euthanasia.

Mexico’s Secretary of Health, Jose Angel Cordova, told the press that the law would not necessarily be applied in federal hospitals, which make up the bulk of medical services in the country, because the law is not federal.  He also clarified that if the government did decide to do so, it would not withhold food or fluids from patients.

“It’s important that the same person who decides when there is an irreversible problem, also decides that extraordinary measures will no longer be taken.  Clearly they will continue with hydration, nutrition, and respiratory support,” said Cordova.

The law also does not apply to private hospitals.