Recently, the Portuguese Parliament passed a bill that allows for euthanasia (mercy killing) for people above the age of 18. Under its provisions, people can request euthanasia if they are in unbearable pain or if they have a terminal illness.
What exactly is euthanasia?
Euthanasia refers to the practise of ending a person’s life to relieve pain or suffering. Generally speaking, in the medical field, euthanasia is the termination of a person’s life by a doctor at the patient’s request.
Voluntary euthanasia is when the patient wants to have their life ended, and it is legal in some countries across the world. More controversial is non-voluntary euthanasia, where the patient is unable to give consent, and this is allowed in limited forms in some countries.
Voluntary euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Venezuela, and most states of Australia.
Portuguese Euthanasia Bill
The Portuguese parliament passed this bill on Friday, and it allows for people over 18 to choose to end their lives if they are in unbearable pain or if they have a terminal illness.
Image Source: 1TV
The Portuguese Parliament had passed bills to legalize euthanasia earlier as well, but these were vetoed by the President, Rebelo de Sousa. Rebelo De Sousa is a devout Catholic churchgoer, and he opposes the bills on moral grounds.
Portuguese President, Image Source: The Print
Yet the Socialist Party, which has a majority in parliament, managed to pass the bill without any issues. The bill only applies to Portuguese nationals and will not apply to foreign nationals or medical tourists.
In a deeply Catholic country, the bill seems to indicate a sharp split in Portuguese society. The president has a week to approve the bill, yet many believe this bill will also get vetoed like before.
Reactions and Responses
A socialist MP, Isabel Moreira, had this to say: “We are confirming a law that has already been approved several times by a huge majority. We have at last come to the end of a long battle”.
Paulo Santos, a member of a pro-euthanasia group, said, “The adoption of this law has been relatively fast compared with other big countries. There’s a good chance euthanasia will lead to even stronger resistance.”
Many opponents say that the issue should be put to a nationwide referendum. Many critics say that doctors may refuse to perform euthanasia on ethical and moral grounds.
With the passing of the bill in Parliament, Portugal may join a select group of countries that have legalized euthanasia. However, opposition from the President and many conservative and religious groups may cause the bill to be repealed, as has happened before.