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Portugal legalises euthanasia at fourth attempt

The final law is passed despite the veto of the republic’s president. Half of the population is against, including Christian doctors.

AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus LISBON 16 DE MAYO DE 2023 11:45 h
The entrance of a hospital in Portugal. / Photo: [link]Gil Ribeiro[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Euthanasia is expected to be legal in autumn 2023, after Portugal’s national parliament passed a law for the fourth time.



The Southern European country is very divided on the issue (surveys say only half of the population says such a law is needed), and the debate has also led to heated debates in the parliament since 2020.



The vetoes of either of president Rebelo de Sousa or the Constitutional Court blocked not one but three attempts of the political majority. The last one, in December 2022.



The text of the law has been modified to include demands to clarify the “excessively undefined concepts” and include more protections to avoid a misuse of euthanasia.



In a country with a strong Christian tradition, both Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians have issued statements opposing euthanasia.



In January, the Portuguese Evangelical Alliance (AEP) argued that there was neither a broad “philosophical, social and religious” conversation nor enough guarantees of “palliative and social care”.



Now, with a 129 votes majority, the Socialist Party (PS) and other leftist and liberal groups reached an absolute majority that allows them to bypass the presidential veto, although other leftist parties such as the Communists voted against. “The time has come for the Assembly to respect itself and for us to respect those who look forward to this day so much”, the PS spokeswoman said.



Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in Europe in countries such as Netherlands (where it represented 4% of all deaths in 2021), Belgium (with a 10% increase in 2022), Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain.



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