By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The Associated Press reported that Portugal’s President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has vetoed the second euthanasia bill this year, a bill that was passed by Portugal’s parliament in early November.
President de Sousa reportedly vetoed the second euthanasia bill because of contradictions in the language of the bill. According to the Associated Press article:
This time, the president is returning the reworded law to the national assembly, according to a statement posted on the Portuguese presidency’s website late on Monday, arguing that further clarification is needed in “what appear to be contradictions” regarding the causes that justify resorting to death with medical assistance.
Whereas the original bill required “fatal disease” as a pre-requisite, the president’s argument followed, the renewed version mentions “incurable” or “serious” disease in some of its formulation. No longer considering that patients need to be terminally ill means, in De Sousa’s opinion, “a considerable change of weighing the values of life and free self-determination in the context of Portuguese society.”
My reading of the euthanasia bill was that it was oriented to euthanasia of people with disabilities.
On January 29, Portugal’s parliament passed a first euthanasia bill. On February 19, President de Sousa did not to sign the bill into law but instead he referred the bill to Portugal’s Constitutional court for evaluation. President de Sousa stated that he thought that the bill was:
“excessively imprecise,” potentially creating a situation of “legal uncertainty.”
On March 15, Portugal’s Constitutional court rejected the euthanasia bill. The Portuguese American Journal reported that the Constitutional court decided that:
“the law is imprecise in identifying the circumstances under which those procedures can occur.” The court stated the law must be “clear, precise, clearly envisioned and controllable.” The law lacks the “indispensable rigor.
In July, 2020 I reported that the Portuguese Medical Association informed the government that they will not permit doctors to participate on the euthanasia commission (the commission to approve euthanasia). At the same time, a group of 15 law professors, including Professor Jorge Miranda, known as the father of Portugal’s Constitution, stated that the euthanasia bills are unconstitutional.
Parliament is dissolving on December 5. A new bill cannot be debated until after the January 30, 2022 election.