The Portuguese Parliament has reapproved the law on euthanasia without modifying the text which President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa had vetoed. The veto, which the president opposed for the fourth time, was overridden and thus canceled, and the law will be promulgated.
Article 136 of the Portuguese Constitution provides that when the President of the Republic has exercised his veto, if the Assembly confirms its vote by an absolute majority of the deputies in office, the President must promulgate the text.
The Socialists, the Left Bloc, the animal rights activists, and the Liberal Initiative – the only conservative party to support the proposal –, as well as some MPs from the Democratic Socialist Party, supported the law, thus obtaining an absolute majority in the chamber.
The non-liberal right strongly rejected the law and threatened to appeal to the Constitutional Court, which has already ruled against an earlier text on technical grounds.
The president, who is a conservative and practicing Catholic, must now enact the law. He has eight days to do so and the law will come into force the day after it is published in the Diario de la República.
The approved text establishes that medically assisted death is that which “results from the person's own decision,” and applies to adults who present a great intensity of suffering, permanent injuries of extreme gravity or serious incurable illness, and when performed or assisted by a medical professional.
The law prioritizes assisted suicide and can be applied in the case of patients who are physically unable to do so themselves. Furthermore, the law limits the procedure to Portuguese citizens or persons residing in the country.
The opponents of the decriminalization of euthanasia regret that the question was not the subject of a referendum and hope that the Constitutional Court will once again be seized by opposition parliamentarians.
“It is a whim of the deputies who did not want to listen to anyone,” argued José Seabra Duque, member of the Portuguese Federation for Life. But “the fight does not stop there” notes an observer because many doctors risk invoking a conscientious objection as some do in relation to abortion, legalized in 2007 by referendum.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are now authorized in a handful of European countries, such as those of Benelux, the first to have authorized them, and neighboring Spain. According to the will of President Macron, France should soon see a law presented for discussion in the Assembly.
Let us note once again the intolerable paradox: the death penalty was abolished in Portugal in 1867. There are no more executioners in this country. But abortion was legalized in 2007 and euthanasia in 2023 and it is the doctors, who have dedicated their lives to caring for their patients and saving lives, are now responsible for being the new executioners in this country.