Portugal: Parliament Gives the Green Light to Assisted Suicide
Taking advantage of the re-election of President Marcelo Rebelo for a second term as head of state, the Portuguese Parliament has just voted for the decriminalization of euthanasia in the country. A decision that comes as the health system is at the end of its rope due to the virulence of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has resulted in a record number of deaths since the start of 2021.
Do not speak of euthanasia but simply of a “medically assisted anticipation of death,” a soft way of designating the thing, voted on January 29, 2021 in a country at the head of which a “fervent” Catholic, in the person of Marcelo Rebelo, has just been re-elected.
The final version of the text, made public on January 26, and voted on three days later, provides that only “national citizens legally residing in national territory,” having made a “free and informed” decision, may have recourse to euthanasia. But in fact, it is much more a question of assisted suicide than euthanasia.
As the European Institute of Bioethics (IEB) notes, “the new law does not require suffering to be caused by injury or disease, but only that it be concurrent with them. Likewise, it does not matter whether the patient’s suffering is able to be alleviated or not: suffering which is intolerable but which could be alleviated can thus pave the way for euthanasia.”
Everything is based, in short, on a subjective assessment of the patient which must be validated by the medical profession: the door opens to all abuses, since the text even provides that psychological suffering is one of the causes of assisted suicide.
But that’s not all: the existence of a terminal illness is not required for the law to apply, euthanasia being allowed for people with “permanent injuries of extreme severity.” Thus, a severely disabled person, physically or mentally, is eligible for euthanasia.
The law still provides for possible sanctions for health centers that fail to apply the new euthanasia provisions, even though conscientious objection is still recognized for health workers. This could pose formidable problems for Catholic clinics and hospitals.
After its adoption, the law will be sent to the Head of State, who will be responsible for promulgating it, and Portugal will then become the fourth country of the European Union (EU) to provide a legal framework for the physical elimination of the most vulnerable, after Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
President Robelo does, however, have the option of vetoing the text, or sending it to the Constitutional Court for prior review. But the head of state’s veto could be overturned by a second MP vote.
The Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP) expressed “sadness and indignation” at the adoption of this law which “violates the principle of the inviolability of human life enshrined in our fundamental law.”
The CEP has appealed to protect life, “especially when it is the most fragile, with all the means and in particular with access to palliative care, which the majority of the Portuguese population does not yet have.”
As the IEB specifies, “70% of Portuguese patients likely to benefit from palliative care do not have access to it due to a lack of sufficiently trained staff.” As it is well known that access to appropriate care provides relief to patients, who then no longer wish to be euthanized.
(Sources : Institut européen de bioéthique/20minutes/cath.ch/Vatican news – FSSPX.Actualités)
Illustration : Andrés Monroy-Hernández from Cambridge, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons