Spain’s parliament passed a law that legalises euthanasia in the country.
The controversial law was passed on 18th March with 198 votes in favour, 142 against and two abstentions. According to COPE, the radio network owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference, the law will be effective in three months.
The legislation makes Spain the fourth European country to legalise physician-assisted suicide after Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Other European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland and Norway, allow for what is known as “passive euthanasia,” in which patients, under strict circumstances, can elect to not receive treatments, such as nutrition or hydration, that would prolong their lives.
A similar bill that would decriminalise euthanasia was introduced by neighbouring Portugal’s parliament, where the country’s Socialist party hold a majority.
However, the country’s constitutional court struck it down on 15th March, citing “excessively undefined concepts” included in the bill, Reuters reported.
In a tweet posted minutes after the law’s passing, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said the law is a way to coerce those who are terminally ill to see death as their only option.
“We cannot consider ourselves an advanced society by approving a law that encourages the sick to throw the towel and end their existence,” Cardinal Omella tweeted.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his party, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, as well as the populist left-wing Podemos party, were major proponents of the legislation.
Prior to the law’s passage, assisted suicide was punishable in Spain by up to five years in prison. A person found to have been directly involved in someone’s death would have faced homicide charges and up to 10 years in prison.
El Pais, the Spanish newspaper, said the bill would allow adults with a terminal illness and those with serious and chronic disabilities to request help for assisted death from the public health care system.
Lawmakers from Spain’s conservative parties – People’s Party (known by the Spanish acronym PP) and VOX – said they would file a challenge to the law with the country’s constitutional tribunal.
Addressing journalists outside the Spanish parliament on 17th March, José Ignacio Echániz, a member of PP and parliamentary representative, said the legislation was a “political whim” of the current government and was carried out without considering the will of the Spanish people.
COPE reported that VOX representative Lourdes Méndez vowed to introduce a palliative care law to counter the euthanasia law, which she called “dictatorial and authoritarian.”
Picture: People protest against a law to legalise euthanasia as the Spanish Parliament prepares to vote on it in Madrid in this file photo, dated 17th December 2020. Spain‘s parliament passed controversial legislation on 18thMarch legalising physician-assisted suicide; Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg also allow physician-assisted suicide. (CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters).