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Portugal rejects euthanasia bills

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30th May 2018

Portugal follows Finland, Guernsey and California in encouraging May pushbacks against euthanasia and assisted suicide - but a new bill looms in Dublin

Portugal rejects euthanasia bills

Just one of Portugal's 230 MPs was absent from the extraordinary vote after four political parties — the governing centre-left Socialist Party, the radical Left Bloc, the Green Party, and the People, Animals, Nature party —tabled bills proposing euthanasia and assisted suicide. The differences were somewhat nuanced; Renascença describes the four bills as relating, respectively, to:

  • 'incurable disease or injury, causing intense... and persistent physical or psychological suffering... or in cases of clinical condition of absolute or definitive disability or dependence'
  • 'definitive injury or incurable and fatal illness and in lasting and unbearable suffering'
  • 'extreme suffering, with definitive injury or incurable and fatal illness.'
  • 'profound suffering resulting from a serious, incurable, and... hopeless clinical improvement, "in" terminally ill or severely disabling and definitive injury.'

You can read the official overview at the Assembly of the Republic's website.

The two biggest parties allowed a free vote for their members, and opposition to the bills came from across the spectrum, including Communist MPs like Antonio Filipe, who said:

'In a context in which the value of human life is frequently made conditional on criteria of social utility, economic interest, family responsibilities and burdens or public spending, legalisation of early death would add a new dimension of problems.

'First of all accelerating the deaths of those to whom society refuses to respond and support in situations of fragility and need. Faced with human suffering, the solution is not to divest society of responsibility by promoting early death but to ensure conditions for a dignified life.'

As large crowds gathered outside Parliament in opposition to the measures - addressed by, among others, a cancer patient who said: 'I have seen many suffer and many die. They didn't need death, they needed support!' - MPs voted, one at a time:

Proposing party

























May 2018 had already been a noticeably encouraging month for pushing back against euthanasia and assisted suicide:

  • At the start of the month, Finland's Parliament debated a citizens' initiative concerning euthanasia, which they rejected 128-60, before agreeing that end of life care required urgent and comprehensive legislative attention
  • On 18 May, the States of Deliberation in Guernsey rejected a watered down version of proposals sponsored by the Chief Minister to establish assisted suicide along similar lines to the Oregon model. During a proposition by proposition vote, deputies threw out 'assisted dying' 24-14, before agreeing 37-1 'To consider the measures necessary to improve quality of life and health outcomes for all islanders towards the end of their lives'
  • On 23 May, California's 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a 15 May Superior Court ruling 'that the law was passed by the state Legislature in violation of the California Constitution because it was approved during a special session on other topics — specifically, health care issues.' State legislators approved the Oregon-style law on 11 September 2015, the same day British MPs rejected the Marris Bill; 111 Californians underwent assisted suicide in 2016. Commenting on the rulings, Life Legal Defense Foundation said: 'This is not a "preliminary" ruling; it is a final order declaring that the End of Life Option Act was passed contrary to the requirements of the California Constitution... We are pleased that the court's ruling will restore the protection that the Act removed from the ill and vulnerable.'

Despite this positive run of decisions, new challenges are always waiting in the wings - as in Ireland:

  • The 'Dying With Dignity Bill', inspired by the late judicial activist and MS sufferer Marie Fleming, and tabled by Independent TD John Halligan in December 2015, lapsed at the 2016 General Election. Halligan subsequently became Minister for Training and Skills. Since that appointment, Halligan has remained committed to his proposals, and this month told the Irish Independent 'that he is working on a renewed version of the Bill, which will be published shortly. "I'll have everything ready in a matter of weeks."'

© Image copyright of Ricardo and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License 2.0

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