Euthanasia bill delayed in Portugal’s parliament  

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Portugal Resident news reported that Portugal’s euthanasia vote has been delayed. The article by Natasha Donn stated:

The vote on the replacement text on medically assisted death has been postponed yet again at the request of the ruling Socialist party today because they believe the bill needs “thorough analysis to have conditions” to be voted on in its first reading. A source for the leadership of the parliamentary bench has told Lusa that the request for postponement was “because this is a matter in which there can not be the slightest doubt” – taking into account the two vetoes by President Marcelo in earlier versions of the draft law.

The Associated Press article by Barry Hatton explained that Portugal’s legislature was attempting for a third time to legalize euthanasia in 18 months.

On January 29, 2021, Portugal’s parliament passed its first euthanasia bill. On February 19, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa did not sign the bill into law but referred the bill to Portugal’s Constitutional Court for evaluation. President de Sousa stated that he thought the bill was

“excessively imprecise,” potentially creating a situation of “legal uncertainty.”

On March 15, the Portuguese American Journal reported that the Constitutional court rejected the bill and stated

“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.” 

On November 30, 2021, President de Sousa vetoed the second euthanasia bill because of contradictions in the language of the bill. The Associated Press reported

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.”

The Associated Press reported that the new bills do not fulfill President De Sousa’s concerns. According to Barry Hatton:

But none of the four new bills addresses Rebelo de Sousa’s specific concerns. Instead, they attempt to simplify circumstances where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are justified by referring to “a situation of intolerable suffering, with a definitive injury of extreme seriousness or a serious and incurable disease.” 

That omission is unlikely to please the president.

I hope that either President De Sousa or the Constitutional Court will once again reject the euthanasia legislation. Sadly, the previous election resulted in the election of a stronger contingent of pro-euthanasia legislators.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.