Portugal: euthanasia law clears final hurdle

Euthanasia for terminally ill patients is to become legal in Portugal. The left-liberal parliamentary majority has been seeking to pass the corresponding law for years, however the conservative president and vocal opponent of euthanasia, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has rejected the bill three times and twice appealed to the Constitutional Court. But now that the parliament has given it the green light he can no longer veto it.

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taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Finally able to die on one's own terms

The taz defends the law against critics:

“Only adults with the mental capacity to make the decision for themselves are eligible. Accordingly, soundess of mind is a prerequisite. ... The possibility of 'death tourism' is ruled out because the law only applies to Portuguese citizens and persons residing in Portugal. ... For those affected, however, it means above all that they can put an end to physical suffering and die in dignity and on their own terms. If this is a person's last wish, what right do outsiders have not to grant it to them?”

Observador (PT) /

A break with moral values

Commenting in Observador, the former leader of the conservative CDS party, José Ribeiro e Castro, fears that the law will open the door to social selection:

“Many people will think that it only applies for extremely serious, incurable, painful and hopeless cases. Those who made the law know that this is not the case. ... The elderly, the chronically ill, the disabled and the poorest will be the main incidence group. Social pressure will increase. ... Social egoism will become more acceptable. This law breaks paradigms and tears apart an established set of values. Strictly speaking it is a moral revolution. The principle that human life is inviolable has been broken.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Exactly how controversial laws should come about

For the Socialist MP and university professor José Mendes, the law's adoption testifies to the maturity of Portugual's democracy. He writes in Diário de Notícias:

“The euthanasia law is an exemplary case of respect for the separation and interaction of the sovereign powers - in this case parliament, the president and the Constitutional Court - set out in the constitution. ... The legislature took note of the suggestions, proposals and decisions of the president and Constitutional Court. The confirmation of the text after the president's veto does not constitute an institutional conflict but should be considered a normal part of a functioning democracy.”