The Portuguese Parliament has scheduled the debate and vote on the euthanasia bill for January 29, 2021. The timing has been highly criticized since the country is currently experiencing a raging Covid pandemic, to the point that the nation is considering petitioning European reinforcement to assist its’ national health care service.
Last year on February 20, 2020, five euthanasia bills, submitted by several socialist parties, had been adopted on first reading, and were to be consolidated into a single text before moving the legislation forward. Previously in May 2018, lawmakers rejected a similar attempt to pass a euthanasia bill. At that time, an opinion poll published just a few days prior to the vote showed that only 7% of the Portuguese population was in favor of euthanasia, while 89% of those questioned preferred palliative care and assistance in the event of serious illness.
On October 23, 2000 the parliament’s left-wing majority rejected a referendum on euthanasia, despite widespread support and over 95,000 signatures. The fact that parliament refused to act on the referendum is an ominous sign that lawmakers may continue to insist on passing this bill, despite the public’s opposition.
Under lockdown since January 15, Portugal is facing an unprecedented health crisis, with record mortality rates due to Covid. An article published on January 27, 2021 in “Les Echos” declares: “With a population of 10.3 million, Portugal is one of the European countries the hardest hit by the second wave. Last week there were 849 Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and the number of cases continues to rise dramatically.”
A growing number of Portuguese caregivers are criticizing the disastrous condition of the nation’s health care service. On January 19, in a recent Facebook video, Dr. Ricardo Baptista Leite, who practices as a volunteer at Caiscais Hospital, near Lisbon compares the situation to a war zone. Dr Leite who is also an MP declares: “It’s impossible to care for all the patients simultaneously. There are such difficult decisions to make, based on predicting which patient will die, regardless of the treatment. It is appalling to see medical teams compelled to prioritize care based on which patients are most likely to live.”
Another complication to managing the current health care crisis is that palliative care is underdeveloped in Portugal, and thus unavailable to 70% of those who should benefit from it.
The grass-roots movement “Stop Euthanasia ” has launched a campaign called “Humanize Portugal” urgently demanding appropriate care and assistance for vulnerable people at the end of life, and by condemning the disrespect and inhumanity of euthanasia.
Seeing this bill being pushed forward under these indecent and catastrophic conditions, while caregivers and the population are fighting to save lives, Alliance VITA calls on Portuguese parliamentarians to resolutely withdraw the euthanasia bill out of respect for human dignity.