Portugal’s Parliament has approved a revised version of a bill that would legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill or seriously injured people. The 138-84 approval vote comes after an initial version of the bill was blocked because the courts said that its wording was too unclear. The country’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, will need to sign the legislation in order for it to become law. According to ABC News, Rebelo de Sousa has expressed reservations about legalizing the procedure in the past.
The Portuguese Parliament legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide earlier this year, but following that ruling, Rebelo de Sousa asked the court to review the wording. The court then weighed in and said that the bill was “imprecise,” leaving it ambiguous as to who would really be eligible for death.
Under the revised legislation, the terms are spelled out more precisely. Those seeking death must have “serious injury, definitive and amply disabling, which makes a person dependent on others or on technology to undertake elementary tasks of daily life.” There also must be “very high certainty or probability that such limitations endure over time without the possibility of cure or significant improvement.”
“There should be no further obstacles to the full adoption of the law,” José Manuel Pureza, a lawmaker, said during parliamentary debate Thursday. “It’s about tolerance and against all unnecessary and unwanted suffering, respecting the constitution and respecting democracy.”
Opposition lawmakers have stated that they believe that the bill was too rushed. “Isn’t it unwise, including for reputation of parliament, that we are legislating on this issue in a last-minute frenzy?” asked Adão Silva, a lawmaker who abstained from the vote. “This debate on euthanasia should not be rushed through.”
The majority of lawmakers’ willingness to signal support of assisted suicide and euthanasia is part of a disturbing trend seen around the world. Many people across the globe are pushing for what they call “death with dignity,” but as some doctors have warned, many vulnerable people feel threatened by assisted suicide legislation. They fear — often rightly so — that they may be pushed unwillingly into suicide instead of receiving the compassionate palliative care and treatment they need.
Should Rebelo de Sousa decide to approve the bill, Portugal will join just a small handful of countries that allow assisted suicide and euthanasia, including its neighbor, Spain, which enacted a similar law in June.
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