Skip to main content

Spain’s assisted death law is in the spotlight after doctors allowed the death of a former security guard who faced trial for having stormed his former workplace a year ago, shooting and wounding three people and later a police officer.

Eugen Sabau, known in Spain as “the Tarragona gunman,” applied for a medically-assisted death in June, six months after he was left with quadriplegia when police subdued him in a shootout following the attack Dec. 14 in the northeastern city.

Victims had argued that Mr. Sabau should not be helped to die before his trial, but two Spanish courts ruled that the accused’s right to seek assisted death prevailed. The man died Tuesday in a prison in northeastern Spain.

In March, 2021, Spain became the fourth country in Europe to allow physician-assisted death for patients with incurable diseases and for people with unbearable permanent conditions.

A Tarragona court ruled that Mr. Sabau suffered unbearable pain with no possibility of relief and agreed with the medical commission to delay it until after the trial violated the dignity and rights of the accused.

Jose Antonio Bitos, a lawyer for the injured police officer, said Wednesday that Spain’s assisted-death law had been rushed in and should be reformed to prevent similar cases in the future. He said the case set a precedent and could potentially be used by defendants who find themselves in similar circumstances and face lengthy sentences if convicted.

Ramon Riu, an expert in constitutional law, told Spanish National Television that the case “is a precedent and courts will certainly take it into account in the future but they will not be obliged to follow the same criteria.”

Mr. Bitos took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, but he was unsuccessful in getting a stay. He said he hopes the court will study the case and urge Spain to make changes.

Mr. Sabau, a Romanian with Spanish residency, had problems with the private security firm he worked for and had warned several colleagues that he would take revenge. Mr. Bitos said he never apologized for what he had done.

The lawyer said it was now unclear how the four victims who sustained serious injuries may claim compensation given that there will be no trial.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles

Interact with The Globe