Portugal’s parliament has voted to legalize euthanasia.
Adults in situations of “extreme suffering and irreversible impairment” are now allowed to have themselves killed, and the doctors administering the lethal drugs go unpunished. The scheme applies to Portuguese nationals resident in Portugal, and the persons concerned must be at least 18 years old. Physicians and psychiatrists have the responsibility of declaring whether the decision of the person willing to die is legally valid, should there be any doubt about the ability to give “free and informed” consent.
Parliament passed the law by 136 votes in favor to 78 against, with four abstentions. The bill had been introduced by the left-wing Partido Socialista, while mainly conservative forces voted against it. The law now must be approved by the Portuguese President.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a professed and practicing Catholic, could prevent the passage with a veto. However, it is likely that his veto would be overridden in a second parliamentary vote. More likely, he will submit the law to the Constitutional Court for review.
This is also urged by the Portuguese bishops, who immediately condemned the parliament’s decision and said it was absurd to pass a law on active killing while actively trying to save human lives in the time of the pandemic. They said the President should not pass the law but refer it to the Constitutional Court, as it violates the constitutional principle of the inviolability of human life.
If the law is passed, Catholic Portugal would become the fourth EU country to legalize active euthanasia, along with Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Worldwide, Canada and New Zealand also allow the active killing of people who wish to die.