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Portugal’s top court rejects euthanasia bill, says it threatened ‘inviolability of life’

The governing Socialist Party, however, reportedly promised to simply reword the bill and attempt to pass it once more.
Thu Mar 18, 2021 - 10:14 am EST
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LISBON, Portugal, March 18, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In a welcome victory for pro-life advocates, Portugal’s Constitutional Court has rejected the parliament-approved bill seeking to legalize euthanasia, declaring that it threatened the “inviolability of life.”

The court made the decision on Monday in a 7-5 ruling. The Portuguese Parliament had earlier this year voted to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, comfortably approving five “right-to-die” bills. Under these conditions, those over 18 years of age could seek help to die if they were terminally ill and suffering from “lasting” and “unbearable” pain, unless they were deemed to not be mentally fit to make the decision.

Portugal’s conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa handed the bill to the Constitutional Court, due to concerns about “excessively undefined concepts” in the bill. As the head of state, he is required to approve laws, but also has the ability to veto laws. However, he could not endlessly prevent their passage since parliament could vote to approve them once more.

Upon examination, the court found that the bill was unconstitutional, as its text presented a threat to the principle of “inviolability of life.”

In its current wording, the bill also was found to be too imprecise, vindicating Rebelo de Sousa’s concerns, with the judges writing that it lacked the “indispensable rigor” required in such a situation. For euthanasia to take place, certain conditions must be met which are “clear, precise, clearly envisioned and controllable,” the judges said, which had not been set out in the bill.

The ruling noted the “excessively imprecise nature of the concept of unbearable suffering” contained in the bill, as well as lack of clarity on “the concept of severe irreversible damage.”

As a result, the bill will now return to parliament, where the governing Socialist Party reportedly promised to simply reword the bill and attempt to pass it once more.

For now, though, Portugal has avoided legalized euthanasia once more, an event which has been welcomed by the Catholic hierarchy in the country. The Portuguese bishops issued a statement in response to the court decision, saying they “welcome” the decision.

“The Episcopal Conference reaffirms the position taken by the Church throughout the whole process, always defending that human life is inviolable. Any legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide is always contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic,” the bishops wrote.

Pro-life advocates worldwide welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision. Catherine Robinson, a spokesperson for U.K. based Right to Life, warned of the dangers contained in the text of the bill. “The euthanasia legislation in Portugal, which, thankfully, failed to pass, uses ‘unbearable’ pain as the criteria and partial justification for the practice,” she said.

“This is typical of euthanasia legislation and could eventually lead to its expansion. Why, after all, would we limit euthanasia only to those who are terminally ill and over 18 if they are otherwise in ‘unbearable’ pain? Children and adults can be in ‘unbearable’ pain without being terminally ill. If the justification for euthanasia lies in being in ‘unbearable’ pain then, it seems unfair to limit euthanasia to only those who are terminally ill.”

Robinson also pointed to a report conducted by the Oregon Health Authority, which revealed that “only slightly more than a quarter of those who died by assisted suicide in Oregon listed ‘inadequate pain control, or concern about it’ as one of their end of life concerns. Far more significantly a full 94.3% of patients were concerned with being ‘[l]ess able to engage in activities making life enjoyable’. 93.1% were concerned with ‘losing autonomy’ and ‘loss of dignity’ was a concern of 71.8% of patients.”

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Speaking to LifeSiteNews earlier this year, Portuguese pro-life campaigner Rodrigo Faria de Castro revealed that the Portuguese Medical Association, Nurses Association, and National Council of Ethics for the Life Sciences were all against the euthanasia bills. The bills arrived from the “left, far left, and liberal parties,” he mentioned.

“Portugal has many problems affecting its public health care. We lack money for medicines, hospital beds, doctors. Palliative care is available for only around 25% of the population. Tragically, euthanasia seems to be the only solution that is being offered now. Parliament is providing death instead of providing good health care for the elderly and [terminally] ill persons,” he concluded.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been topical issues for some years now in Portugal. The Portuguese parliament previously narrowly failed to pass euthanasia and assisted suicide laws back in 2018.

However, neighboring Spain is close to passing its own law permitting assisted suicide and euthanasia. On December 17, Spain’s Congress of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, approved a bill with a 198-to-138 margin, which has now only to pass through the Senate, where it is expected to be approved. Reuters reports that the bill could be passed even by Thursday, March 18.

Under the bill, health care workers could assist patients to die if they have “a serious and incurable disease” or are suffering from a “debilitating and chronic condition” the person considers “unbearable.” The patient would have to submit two written requests to die, over a fortnight, and make two more confirmations of his wish to die, one verbally to a doctor, and once again just before he is to die.


  assisted suicide, euthanasia, marcelo rebelo de sousa, portugal

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