Portugal’s President thwarts moves to legalise euthanasia

For the second time in less than a year, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has blocked an attempt to make it legal for Portuguese doctors to kill their patients.

The latest version of the Bill, approved by members of the National Assembly on 5 November, was judged to be too radical by the Roman Catholic President and returned to them unsigned.

In March, Rebelo de Sousa referred the first draft of the Bill to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it was imprecise in identifying the circumstances under which euthanasia and assisted suicide could occur. Justices rejected it in a 7-5 vote.

Incompatible

In a written statement, Rebelo de Sousa explained to the Assembly that he had vetoed the updated proposal because it lacked clarity and was incompatible with the country’s values.

Specifically, the President sought clarification on which expression the Assembly favoured in the Bill to justify euthanasia or assisted suicide – “fatal disease”, “incurable disease” or “serious disease”.

incompatible with the country’s values

If “fatal disease” was no longer a prerequisite for “medically assisted death”, Rebelo de Sousa said he considered the Bill to be out of step with “the values of life and self-determination, in the context of Portuguese society”.

Britain

At Westminster in October, over sixty members of the House of Lords spoke out against Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill, which seeks to enable those deemed to have less than six months to live to get help to kill themselves.

As expected, her Bill will now move to Committee Stage, but it faces many more hurdles before it can become law. In 2015, a Bill to remove existing safeguards in England and Wales was soundly defeated in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.

In Scotland, Liam McArthur MSP is pressing ahead with his plan to legalise assisted suicide there, with a public consultation on his Bill due to close next month. Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010.

Also see:

Hands

Senior doctor: Assisted suicide is ‘neither painless nor dignified’

‘Assisted suicide Bill opens door to coercion’, palliative care experts warn

MSP: Scot assisted suicide Bill ‘a danger’ to the disabled

Related Resources