Legislators on Tuesday approved in first debate a bill that will penalize up to 10 years in prison for the abandonment of seniors.
The initiative, that received unanimous support by the 46 legislators present at the time of the vote in Tuesday’s session, reforms article 142 bis of the Penal Code.
Specifically, the bill constitutes the abandonment of seniors as a new type of criminal offense and creates a series of sanctions for those who, being the person responsible for their care, eventually abandon them and, thereby, causing minor or serious injury or even death.
Penalties are classified as follows:
- 10 to 100 days fine or one to six months in prison for anyone who abandons an elderly person in a state of vulnerability, despite having the obligation to care for them.
- Six months to three years in prison if, as a result of this abandonment, the person’s life, physical, mental or social health is endangered.
- Three to six years in prison if the abandonment generates serious damage to the body or health of the older adult.
- Six to 10 years in prison in the event that, as a result of the abandonment of the person in a vulnerable state, the death of the older adult occurs.
Although the bill creates a new article specifically on the abandonment of older adults, its wording is practically identical to the current article 142 of the Penal Code, where prison terms for abandonment of persons are established.
According to PLN legislator María José Corrales, annually, 250 seniors are abandoned each year and that puts their physical and mental health at risk.
“Any action that leads us to protect, shield and offer a state of guarantee to the physical and emotional safety of older adults will always be necessary,” said the legislator.
Corrales cited data from the National Council of the Elderly (Conapam) where 21 seniors a month are reported abandoned.
As for how the person who is directly responsible for the care of the elderly person is defined, PAC legislator Catalina Montero indicated that it is particularly about the person’s close relatives, whether sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, for example.
Of course, she recognized that adjustments must be made to harmonize other laws in this regard, and define more clearly the responsibility for the care of older adults and the possible consequences of such abandonment.
For her part, Corrales argued that the law does not exclusively define a family relationship to determine the guilt of someone who abandons an older adult.
“It will be up to the Public Ministry to investigate and determine the links of the affected person to determine the degree of responsibility and the application of the penalties established in the bill,” said Corrales.
The second and final debate is expected on Thursday, June 4.