New law criminalising “abandonment of the elderly” put on hold

After all the talk and good intentions, the proposed law criminalising abandonment of the elderly has been put on hold due to parliamentary holidays.

Indeed, the expression given in Público was that “the elderly statute”, as it has become known, will be “held in a bain-marie until the next parliament”.

With elections due in October, it is now unlikely to move forwards for the next few months, if at all.

Heavily pushed by justice minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz, the proposed law seeks to prosecute anyone “in charge of” an elderly person who leaves that person in a hospital or other health establishment.

It also seeks to prosecute anyone who insults or defames another who is vulnerable “through age, deficiency, illness or pregnancy”.

As Público explains, there are all kinds of permutations for the new law that will require changes to the penal code – another reason for its delay.

Clauses also seek to annul wills made by vulnerable people in old age homes, preclude heirs from inheriting if they have been found to have neglected their elderly relative and allow people who fear future incapacity to make written arrangements ahead of time.

But there are lots of grey areas. For instance, should an elderly relative be assigned to a bipolar younger person, who may fail to look after him or her? As was the case recently when headlines ran “She left her father to die”. Or should a child previously abused by her father be legally forced to care for him in his dotage?

Questions like these have led to huge criticisms that would almost certainly see a future PS government consign the whole initiative to a very deep bain-marie, if not the dustbin, explains Público, adding that the initiative’s “preamble” stresses that the law would be dependent on funds being made available by the competent authorities.

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