Spain has moved closer to decriminalizing euthanasia after the country’s lower house passed the Dignity at the End of Life Law Thursday, December 20th. The law is seen as a necessary precursor to securing majority support for the forthcoming legislation proposed by the ruling PSOE party.
Under an agreement between the ruling socialist PSOE party and the Ciudadanos party, passing the Dignity at the End of Life law will set the stage for PSOE to pass its euthanasia decriminalization bill through the lower chamber. PSOE’s goal is to fully enact decriminalization by 2020, according to a Reuters article released the same day as the passage of the law.
The Dignity at the End of Life law mandates all communities in Spain offer what PSOE’s official Twitter account called “the right to die without pain” as well as “the right to make decisions for oneself, including the decision not to prolong life artificially.”
🏛️🔴@jesusmariafer: Se cumple un objetivo largamente perseguido. Una ley que fija los derechos de las personas en el proceso final de su vida. El derecho a morir sin dolor. El derecho a tomar decisiones por uno mismo, incluso la decisión de no prolongar artificialmente la vida.
— PSOE Congreso (@gpscongreso) December 20, 2018
Although the law stopped short of legalizing euthanasia, critics linked the legislation to the euthanasia bill. According to El Pais, UPN lawmaker Carlos Salvador Armendáriz asserted that both laws are part of what “Pope Francis calls the throw-away culture,” with the law in December 20th as nothing but a transitory “objective on the road to the right to kill.”
The act of assisted suicide in Spain is currently punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to Reuters. Only three countries in Europe currently allow euthanasia: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Physician-assisted suicide is allowed under certain criteria in Switzerland, Germany, Finland, and Austria.
A 2017 opinion poll cited by Reuters showed 84% of Spaniards support euthanasia. The Catholic Church in Spain, a waning presence in the traditionally Catholic country, opposes the proposed legislation. The Spanish Bishops’ Conference spokesman declared in June 2018 that “euthanasia is not a right,” since “you cannot make rights that are not born of human nature and dignity.”