Could Portugal be The Fourth State in Europe to Legalize Euthanasia?

Portugal could become the fourth country in Europe to legalise euthanasia after its parliament yesterday passed a vote despite Catholic opposition.

The bill must be signed into law by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a staunch Catholic and conservative who was re-elected a week ago.

The president has the power to veto the legislation or refer it to the constitutional court – but he has not yet made his position known.

The bill passed by 136 votes to 78 with four abstentions after members of the ruling Socialist Party allowed its members to vote freely.

And even if the president chooses to veto the bill, a second vote could override his decision.

Socialist MP Isabel Moreira, a constitutional law expert who helped draft the law, said the bill allows ‘free choice and every individual’s independence’.

In the case of ‘extreme suffering and irreversible damage’ an adult patient will be granted access to assisted suicide if the bill is passed into law.

Patients will be protected by a number of measures. Each euthanasia request will need the approval of several doctors and a psychiatrist will be called if there are any doubts about their ability to make a ‘free and informed’ choice.

So far euthanasia is legal in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Others allow terminally ill patients to refuse life-maintaining treatment.

Retired oncologist Jorge Espirito Santo said: ‘People deserve the right to be able to choose.’

But not everyone was in agreement, as the Catholic church battled fervently against the vote.

Its bishops’ conference called the law an ‘unprecedented step backwards’ and the Portuguese Catholic Doctors’ Association asked the president to veto the legislation, saying: ‘Doctors are not agents of death’.

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