By Michael Cook
For the second time Portugal’s Constitutional Court has rejected a right-to-die law because its wording is “intolerably vague”. The bill has been returned to Parliament to be redrafted.
On January 30 the Court concluded, by a vote of 7 to 6, that the text was inconsistent with the Basic Law because it failed to clearly define “suffering of great intensity” that could permit a person to seek euthanasia.
For nearly three years, the Portuguese parliament has been trying pass right-to-die legislation. The president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a former law professor, refused to promulgate the law and referred it to the country’s supreme court. In March 2021 it rejected the earlier version because its wording, too, was imprecise.
Socialist parliamentarian Isabel Moreira, one of the main backers of the law, said that the latest ruling by the Constitutional Court was only a “semantic problem”. “If it is a question of correcting a word, we will be there to do so,” she told a press conference.
This is the third time that draft legislation has failed. To stop the game of judicial ping-pong, some are calling for a national referendum.
Portuguese media explained the latest issue: “By characterising suffering on the basis of three characteristics: ‘physical’, ‘psychological’, and ‘spiritual’, all linked by the conjunction ‘and’, the law has created doubt among judges as to whether it is necessary for the suffering to be simultaneously ‘physical’, ‘psychological’ and ‘spiritual’ for euthanasia to be invoked, or whether it is sufficient for the suffering to have only one of those aspects”.