Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has vetoed a bill to legalize euthanasia for the fourth time. In a note published by the office of the Portuguese President, it is stated that the president has decided to send the text back to the Assembly of the Republic without promulgating it.
Last January, the Constitutional Court, for the second time, concluded that the third version of the law, voted at the end of 2022 by Parliament, was unconstitutional. The high court then pointed to the inaccuracies concerning the qualification of suffering as a condition for access to euthanasia.
On Friday, March 31, 2023, the Portuguese Parliament passed a fourth version of the law on medically assisted death. The bill was approved by the Assembly, but was rejected by the majority of deputies from the conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD), to which Rebelo de Sousa belongs, as well as the right-wing Chega party and the Communist Party.
To respond to the request of the Constitutional Court, the parliamentarians had modified the qualification of suffering, described in the previous version as “physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering.”
Article 2 of this new version of the law describes suffering of great intensity as “resulting from a serious and incurable disease or a permanent injury of extreme gravity, great intensity, persistent, continuous or permanent and considered intolerable by the person himself.”
Furthermore, article 3 of the law, which provides for the conditions under which medically assisted death is not punishable, introduces a new condition, which makes euthanasia subordinate to assisted suicide: euthanasia would only be permitted in the cases where assisted suicide is impossible due to the patient's physical incapacity.
This is the fourth time that the Portuguese parliament has attempted to advance a proposal on the decriminalization of euthanasia, and it has twice been rejected by the president and overturned by the Constitutional Court.
The text stipulates that euthanasia can be authorized when assisted suicide is not possible due to the physical incapacity of the patient. However, the President believes that it is important to define who must recognize or attest to this impossibility and who must supervise assisted suicide.
Rebelo de Sousa, a practicing Catholic, believes that it is necessary to clarify the differences between assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as the supervision of the process provided for by law. This is why he vetoed this euthanasia bill for the fourth time.
But it is not difficult to guess that the President of Portugal would not want to put his signature to such a law. It is hoped that he will be strong enough to continue to reject this deadly text.