The Spanish Chamber of Deputies on December 17, 2020 adopted at first reading, the government bill decriminalizing euthanasia: 198 deputies voted for, 138 against, and 2 abstained. The text must be approved by the Senate next February to enter into force.
This is not without the strong opposition of the bishops of the country, who categorically reject the law and call for strengthening palliative care. Currently, euthanasia and “assisted suicide” are punished with two to ten years in prison, a reduced sentence “if the person is seriously ill and has asked to die.”
On December 11, the Spanish Episcopal Conference “called Spanish Catholics to a Day of Fasting and Prayer on December 16, to ask the Lord to inspire laws that respect and promote the care of human life.”
In a press release entitled Life is a Gift, Euthanasia a Failure, the bishops “urged the promotion of palliative care, which aids living with serious illness without pain and for the integral, therefore also spiritual, accompaniment of the sick and of their families.”
The day after the vote, the bishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, requested that the ecclesiastical buildings in his diocese be draped in black as a sign of mourning. The faithful were invited to do the same at the windows of their homes. “Once again, let us say no to this perverse and iniquitous law, no to euthanasia, and yes to palliative care,” the bishop urged in a pastoral letter.
President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan José Omella has called for more resources for palliative care. “If a person feels that there are people who help him, who love him, that person does not want to die,” said the prelate.
“Induced death is just an easy shortcut to death and suffering,” said Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid. “Love has nothing to do with killing, and man’s mission is always to defend life and to use all means available to do so.”
The archbishop of the Spanish capital also said he fears that with this law some elderly or vulnerable people, dependent on their families, will feel “under pressure” to ask to be euthanized.
“It puts greed at the service of selfishness in the face of a legacy that is anticipated with impunity,” added Msgr. Jesús Sanz Montes, Archbishop of Oviedo. “It is playing at being a god: controlling life before birth and at the end of its journey. "
This position has earned him criticism from the PSOE, the left-wing party currently in power: “The Archbishop of Oviedo should not play at being God by giving his opinion for the elderly, the sick and families.”
“This is a great social conquest for our country,” said the president of the Spanish government, Socialist Pedro Sanchez, on Twitter after the vote. We move forward in freedom, in civil rights and in dignity (sic).” Spain will then become the sixth country in the world to allow euthanasia, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, and New Zealand.
The bill allows euthanasia for people “suffering from a serious, disabling or incurable disease,” on the advice of two doctors and a commission. The project also envisages reimbursement of the “procedure” by Social Security. A conscience clause is provided for health professionals who refuse to practice it.
Each region of Spain will have to have its own control commission, to give its opinion before, and to review the whole process afterwards. The procedure can be performed in a hospital or at home, but not in a retirement home.
There is an “individual right not to respond to requests for health action, governed by this law, which are incompatible” with the involved parties own convictions; however, the regions will have to ensure that this right to conscientious objection does not “compromise access and the quality of the service!”