Portuguese parliament approves decriminalisation of euthanasia

Portugal’s parliament on Friday passed a law approving the decriminalisation euthanasia for the terminally ill.

The Portuguese parliament passed the bill with 136 votes in favour, 78 against and four abstentions. 

The law will now be sent to conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who can use his veto, send it to the Constitutional Court or promulgate it. 

Portugal will be the fourth country in Europe and the seventh in the world to decriminalise euthanasia – which consists in a doctor administering lethal drugs to a patient – if the president enacts the law.

This law would mean that people over the age of 18, without mental problems or illnesses, in a situation of suffering and with an incurable illness, could request euthanasia through a doctor. Only residents in Portugal or national citizens would be able to request euthanasia, to avoid people travelling from abroad.

Hundreds stood outside parliament before the vote to contest the decision, holding up banners with the words “euthanasia” crossed out, and religious effigies. 

The law has also been criticised by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference which said legalising euthanasia in the context of the pandemic was a “contradiction.” 

However, Left Bloc MP Jose Manuel Pureza argued: “With this vote, parliament added dignity to our democracy.”

While the catholic-majority country’s constitution states that human life is sacrosanct, the country legalised abortions in 2007.