Portugal – Euthanasia: The Portuguese Parliament Have Adopted a Constitutionally Controversial Law

09/12/2022

On Friday 9th October 2022, the Portuguese parliament voted for the 3rd time on a law to legalise euthanasia, which has every chance of being referred to the Constitutional Council due to its particularly extensive conditions.

The first bill, tabled in January 2021 under the full Covid pandemic was declared unconstitutional. The second modified bill was adopted on 5th November 2021 before being vetoed by the President of the Republic in November 2021. The bill included in particular a legal inconsistency concerning the qualification of the sickness eligible for euthanasia, sometimes described as “serious” in some articles and as fatal or incurable in others. The bill did not go any further due to the dissolution of Parliament in December 2022.

It is therefore a new bill which has now been tabled and adopted. As in 2021 it is the result of a compromise combining the proposals put forward by the Socialist party, the Left Block (extreme left), PAN, the Animal Rights, the Greens and the Liberal Initiative party.

Several measures are again out of control as identified by several lawyers, such as law professor Teresa de Melo.

The notion of life expectancy threatened in the short term is not mentioned, leaving considerable room for interpretation for the practice of euthanasia. What was previously described as ” intolerable suffering” in the previous bills has changed to “high intensity suffering” which is a clear attenuation of the requirement.

The notion of “terminal sickness” has been modified to “serious sickness”, which objectively expands the range of illnesses which qualify for euthanasia. Moreover, since no psychological evaluation is mandatory, it will not be possible to check whether the patient’s will and consent are “free and enlightened”, especially if the patient is suffering from a mental disorder or is being subjected to external pressures.

It is now up to the President of the Portuguese Republic to determine the constitutionality of these measures, in particular in view of the virtual absence of protection for fragile patients.

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