Pro-euthanasia movement calls for referendum

A new pro-euthanasia movement entitled ‘Direito a morrer com dignidade’ (Right to die with dignity) has defended Portugal should promote a referendum on euthanasia. A manifesto signed by several supporters, including “doctors and MPs”, is to be presented tomorrow (February 6).

“A referendum has the advantage of being democratic, of giving people the power to choose,” Rui Nunes, the president of the Portuguese Bioethics Association (APB), told Lusa news agency.

But before voting could move forwards, Portugal would have to encourage a “wide debate” as Nunes admits euthanasia brings up “several ethical questions”.

The movement he stands for says people “have the right to a dignified death in cases of deep suffering and incurable diseases”.

While he says that “there are many people who defend this idea,” opinions are divided when it comes to putting the choice in the hands of other people, such as family members. For example, people who are paralysed or “brain dead” in most cases aren’t able to make the choice for themselves.

There’s also “great controversy” over whether euthanasia should be allowed for children, he added.

Nunes, a college professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Porto, admits there would have to be very strict rules, and that Portugal should develop a palliative care system to provide better conditions for patients.

As Lusa points out, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg are the only European Union countries where euthanasia is legal.