On December 9, 2022, for the third time, the Portuguese parliament adopted a text legalizing euthanasia. However, its entry into force remains subject to the decision of the President of the Republic as to its compatibility with the Portuguese Constitution.
This law is the third text adopted by Portuguese deputies in the space of two years, but it is the first under the current legislature. Indeed, two bills on euthanasia were successively adopted in January and November 2021, but then had their implementation blocked after the vote.
In the first case, the conditions for the application of euthanasia provided for by the text had been deemed unconstitutional by the Portuguese Constitutional Court.
The second text meanwhile was vetoed by the President of the Republic, due to the remaining legal uncertainties. In each case, the lack of supervision and control of this exception to the ban on killing was the reason for the intervention.
Far from responding to the concerns raised by the first two laws, this new text seems on the contrary to reinforce them: the conditions of the law are indeed more extensive than before.
Thus, the “intolerable” character of the suffering is no longer required in the patient, only suffering “of great intensity” would suffice. Similarly, the criterion linked to the existence of a “fatal illness” is replaced by that of a “serious illness.”
Finally, euthanasia is no longer seen as the act of “anticipating” the death of a patient already at the end of life, as before. Instead, it is considered as the fact, for a doctor, of voluntarily administering death to a anyone asking for it.
Even though Belgium was condemned last October by the European Court of Human Rights for the lack of supervision of the practice of euthanasia (in this case, concerning the a posteriori control), this Portuguese law seems in turn to take the path of extensive legalization of euthanasia.
However, many Portuguese jurists and constitutionalists question the terms of the law.
Its extensive nature could thus lead to it once again being blocked from entry into force, either by a veto from the President of the Republic, or by a finding of unconstitutionality formulated by the Constitutional Court.