Portugal, The Law on Euthanasia is Judged Unconstitutional


On 30th January 2023, The Portuguese Constitutional Court again rejected a law to legalise euthanasia. The President, Marcelo de Souza, had submitted to the court the text adopted on 9th December, as he considered it to be unclear on some particular points and that it created legal insecurity.

A first law adopted in January 2021 under the full Covid pandemic had already been declared unconstitutional and sent back to parliament to be re-written. A second revised text was adopted on 5th November 2021 before being vetoed by the President in November 2021. Indeed, the text included in particular a legal uncertainty concerning the qualification of the sicknesses eligible for euthanasia, sometimes described as “serious” in certain articles and fatal or incurable in others. The text did not go any further due to the dissolution of parliament in December 2022.

As in 2021, the law invalidated by the Court, is the result of a compromise combining proposals submitted by the Socialist party, the Left block (extreme left), PAN, the animal protection party, the Greens and the Liberal initiative party.

The constitutional judges considered that there was a severe lack of definition concerning the precise scope of the new law. Indeed, the legislator decided to characterise suffering by listing three characteristics – physical, psychological and spiritual – linked by the conjunction ‘and’. This leaves room for diverse interpretations. In other words, in order to have access to euthanasia, should these characteristics be considered as cumulative or separate?  the President therefore returned the text to the Republican Assembly (Parliament) for rewriting without promulgation.  Since 2021, this law has been forced through: in January 2021, the debate was held during the full pandemic. Even worse, the law is supported by all the left parties at the expense of solidarity and accompaniment inasmuch as palliative care is very poorly developed and the health system is fragile.

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