Saturday, February 22, 2020
Portugal’s parliament voted last week in favor of allowing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill people by passing 5 bills similar to each other, priming the country to be one of the few in the world that would allow the procedure. But the Portuguese president could still attempt to block the legislation.
Before the 230 member Republican Assembly, the name of Portugal's parliament, hundreds of protesters met outside, brandishing banners and religious effigies. The Assembly recognized the monumental vote they were embarking on, so instead of utilizing the electronic voting system, each lawmaker was called in alphabetical order to state their vote on each bill. Such a lengthy voting method is usually used only for landmark votes, such as a declaration of war or impeachment. All five bills were passed with significant margins, between 28 and 41 votes.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is known to be reluctant when it comes to euthanasia and may veto the vote, making it revert back to the Assembly for a second vote to bypass the veto. The president also could ask the Constitutional Court to review the legislation as Portugal’s Constitution states that human life is “sacrosanct,” though abortion has been legal in the country since 2007.
The legislation, presented by the governing Socialist Party, is similar the ones passed in other countries, covers patients over 18 years of age who are “in a situation of extreme suffering, with an untreatable injury or a fatal and incurable disease.” Two doctors, at least one of them a specialist in the relevant ailment, and a psychiatrist would need to sign off on the patient’s request to die. The case would then go to a Verification and Evaluation Committee, which would have to approve or turn the procedure. The process will be postponed if it is legally challenged, or if the patient loses consciousness, and health practitioners can refuse to perform the procedure on moral grounds.
See Barry Hatton, Amid Protests, Portugal Lawmakers Vote to Allow Euthanasia, Associated Press, February 20, 2020.