The decriminalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide is a step closer to becoming a reality in Portugal after lawmakers approved a set of bills. The move has been applauded by many but opposed by religious groups and conservatives.
All five proposals presented were approved, as MPs were allowed to vote according to their conscience and not
party lines. Even though the bills were approved, the legislative process may take time and encounter a few obstacles along the road.
The Dying with Dignity Movement has welcomed the approval in parliament, of the five bills that decriminalise euthanasia, while other members of parliament have stated that they will fight against the bills that they consider to be unconstitutional.
Speaking to the Lusa agency, Paulo Santos, from the coordinating committee of the Movement, expressed satisfaction with the passing of the bills and stressed the movement’s willingness to collaborate with deputies to achieve a unique project that would decriminalise euthanasia in Portugal.
The five bills approved in parliament provide that people over the age of 18, with no problems or mental illnesses, in a situation of suffering and with an incurable illness, can ask for medically assisted death.
They also propose the decriminalisation of those who practice assisted death, under the conditions defined by law, guaranteeing conscientious objection for doctors and nurses.
Prime Minister António Costa said that he was not surprised by the approval of the five bills.
“I am not surprised that the five projects under discussion have been approved,” said the head of government, speaking to journalists.
According to António Costa, this “was the expected result”, taking into account the positions publicly expressed by the parties and the deputies of the Portuguese parliament.
While there was a majority in favour of the bills in parliament, the president of the CDS, Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos, said that his party will continue to fight against the decriminalisation of euthanasia and defended that the Portuguese should be given a voice on the matter, through a referendum.
Rodrigues dos Santos said that the parties that proposed to decriminalise euthanasia, “lack political legitimacy”, because the subject is not part of their electoral programmes.
“The role of the State is to take care and not kill (…). We do not want a state that allows assisted death or that assists death, ”said the centrist leader, who highlighted that government should focus on improving the National Health Service.
Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos stressed that, in this matter, there is a third way. “There are not only two options: either to suffer or to die. There is a third way: to live with dignity ”, he defended.
The CDS leader said that it is “unreasonable” to think that the conscience of 230 deputies is worth more than the conscience of all Portuguese voters and has called for an “informed and enlightened” discussion , involving, in particular, health professionals and professionals in the field”.
He added that the CDS party considers that euthanasia violates the Constitution.
“It is postulated in Article 24 that human life is inviolable and in Article 2 that the death penalty is prohibited in Portugal”, he explained.