By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Alison Roberts reported for BBC News on December 9 that Portugal’s parliament passed a bill that would legalize euthanasia if an adult’s wish to die is “current and reiterated, serious, free and informed”.
MPs voted 126 to 84 in favour, with all but seven members of Portugal’s governing Socialist Party, which has a majority in parliament, backing the bill, as did some opposition members.
But other opposition politicians called on Portugal’s conservative president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to send the text for constitutional review, as he did with a previous version. They allege there are still problems with the bill.
This is the third euthanasia bill passed Portugal’s parliament with the previous two bills being reviewed by the Constitutional court or rejected by President de Souza. Roberts reports:
Once the president receives the final text, he can sign it into law, send it to the Constitutional Court within eight days, or exercise his veto within 20 days. A veto can, however, be overturned by a majority of members of parliament.
He has already said he will be quick to announce his decision.
This is the third time that a bill to allow euthanasia has made it through all parliamentary stages. The first was in early 2020, when the president sent it to the Constitutional Court, which upheld some of his concerns.
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 that 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 article 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 article reported in June 2022 that the new bills do not fulfill President De Sousa’s concerns. According to the article
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 President De Sousa sends the bill back to the Constitutional Court for review. 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.