LISBON | The Portuguese Parliament on Friday adopted by a large majority a law authorizing “medically assisted death” which will make this Catholic country the fourth in Europe, after the Benelux, to legalize euthanasia, when it comes into force.
The text was approved with 136 votes for, 78 votes against and 4 abstentions, thanks in particular to a majority of votes from the Socialist Party, which had given freedom to vote to its deputies, some deputies of the Social Democratic Party among which Rui Rio , the leader of the right-wing opposition, the Left Bloc or the animalist party PAN.
The outcome of this final vote, without an audience in the galleries of Parliament due to the health restrictions in force, seemed certain to the extent that several texts favorable to euthanasia were already adopted last February by a majority of deputies.
This text, which has come to merge these different proposals, provides that only Portuguese adults, living on the territory of the country and finding themselves “in a situation of extreme suffering, presenting irreversible lesions” or suffering from “an incurable disease”, may have use of assisted suicide.
The request of the patient at the end of life must be validated by several doctors, as well as a psychiatrist when there are doubts about the person’s ability to make a “free and informed” choice.
When the time comes, the patient’s doctor will have to make sure that he is willing to end his life one last time, in the presence of witnesses.
Assisted death may be practiced in establishments of the national health service, or any other place “chosen by the patient” as long as he has “adequate clinical and comfort conditions”, specifies the law.
After the adoption by the Parliament, the text will be sent to the conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who can then promulgate the law, submit it to the analysis of the Constitutional Court or oppose its veto, which could then be annulled. by a second vote of the deputies.
Reelected on Sunday for a second term, the head of state is a fervent Catholic but has so far avoided taking an open position on the subject.
The Catholic Church immediately reacted to express its “indignation” at a law that represents an “unprecedented setback”, in a statement from the episcopal conference.
Socialist deputy Isabel Moreira, a specialist in constitutional law who participated in the final drafting of the law, welcomed the intense debate which led to the adoption of a law which respects “the free choice and autonomy of everyone”.
In Europe, three countries have already legalized euthanasia: Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Neighboring Spain also took a step in this direction last December, but the government bill is due to be submitted to the Senate by the end of March.
In October, the Portuguese Parliament rejected a draft referendum on euthanasia, following a petition launched by the Federation for Life, which had collected nearly 100,000 signatures.
“It’s about actively provoking someone’s death. However, the role of the State is to take care, not to kill, ”argued José Maria Seabra Duque, one of the leaders of this Catholic-inspired organization.