The debate on the legalization of euthanasia is at the center of the news in several countries of the European Community: while Spain has just decriminalized assistance in dying, the highest court in Portugal has just revoked a similar legal bill.
Can this be seen as an intervention by the Virgin of Fatima in favor of her adopted land? In any case, the Portuguese bishops welcomed with relief the judgment of the Constitutional Court of March 15, 2021, rejecting by a narrow majority of seven votes out of twelve, the bill on euthanasia adopted by Parliament on January 29.
The Portuguese Bishops’ Conference (Cep), in a brief press release, soberly reiterated that, “the stance taken by the Church throughout this process has been to assert unceasingly that human life remains inviolable. Any legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide is contrary to the affirmation of the dignity of the human person and to the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.”
After its adoption in parliament, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the Portuguese head of state, transmitted the law to the Constitutional Court. It is the latter that has just struck down the legislative text as unconstitutional, noting the absence of “clear, precise, and controllable rules” surrounding the practice of assisted suicide.
Rejected, the text must go back to the deputies: the defenders of the right to life have won a not-inconsequential battle, even if the war is far from won.
Neighboring Spain is not following the same path: the Congress of Deputies has definitively adopted, by 198 votes to 142, the law which now makes euthanasia legal in the country.
The new Spanish legislation, which is due to come into force next June, allows both euthanasia—in which case the caregiver actively kills the patient—as well as medically assisted suicide, in which the patient himself takes the prescribed lethal dose.
Spain thus becomes the fourth European country and the sixth in the world to allow a patient with an incurable disease to resort to euthanasia.
The Spanish episcopate deeply deplores Parliament’s decision: “Can we consider ours to be an ‘evolved’ society when it pushes the sick to end their existence?” Asks Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (Cee).
The Spanish Prime Minister, who heads a motley coalition ranging from socialists to Marxist-Leninists, welcomed the adoption of the text which, according to him, is making Spain “a more humane, more just, and more free country.” A tweet which makes it possible to wonder if the words still have a meaning, when humanity and freedom are measured against an imposed death or self-inflicted death.