Half of the population is against the law, including Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians.
The Portuguese parliament has approved a new medically assisted suicide law. It is the third try of the political majority to officialise euthanasia in a country in which polls say only half of the population would agree with such a text.
The Roman Catholic Church, traditionally very influential in Portugal, has strongly opposed the law, saying it “threats humanity”.
In the last couple of years, evangelical Christians have also analysed the text. Doctor Jorge Cruz, a bioethics experts in the country, hoped that “at least there is a referendum on the subject - in spite of all disinformation and misunderstandings presented by media in general”.
One year ago, the Portuguese Association of Christian Nurses and Doctors expressed its “concern” as the text reached the final parliamentary phase. “Any legislative change that may allow doctors and nurses to intentionally end the lives of patients, even after the latter’s voluntary and repeated request, jeopardizes the mission and purpose of medicine, health sciences, ethics and deontology. It will also inevitably lead to a deterioration of the doctor-patient relationship”.
This last vote in the Portugal parliament was passed with a majority of 126 to 84. The groups who voted against included the Communist Party.
This assisted suicide law has been presented after amending two previous texts blocked by the country’s head of state, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and the Constitutional Court.
The law now establishes that “non-punishable medically assisted death” occurs “by decision of an adult, whose will is current and reiterated, serious, free and informed, in a situation of great intensity suffering, with definitive injury of extreme gravity or serious and incurable disease, when performed or assisted by health professionals”.
The initiative is led by the Socialist government of Prime Minister António Costa.
Compared to the text rejected in November 2021, the law drops the “fatal illness” requirement this time. It establishes a minimum period of two months from the beginning of the euthanasia procedure and also requires a psychological assessment of the patient asking to die.
The first try to pass an euthanasia law, in January 2021, was vetoed by the President of Portugal because it included “excessively undefined concepts”.
The newest version of the law has now been sent again to Rebelo de Sousa, who can either sign it into law, veto it again or send the text to the Constitutional Court.
[title]Pushing a law until it is passed
The political tactic of pushing a law until it is passed is not new. Especially in issues that raise serious moral concerns in parts of society, certain parties invest in mid-term strategies, hoping that by changing minor aspects of a proposed text, the law will finally be approved.
A recent example is the initiative of making abortion a constitutional right in France. After a first failed attempt, the lower chamber passed a second text. The southern European country could soon hold a referendum and make abortion an untouchable “dogma”, as one Protestant pro-life activist called it.
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