Despite protests, lawmakers in Portugal have voted to allow euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill in the western European nation.
The Portuguese parliament passed five "right-to-die" bills this week, each of which passed easily, according to the Associated Press.
The nation's president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who took office in 2016, may yet intervene and block the legislation. The Portuguese leader is reportedly reluctant to embrace euthanasia. Should he veto the bill, the parliament could then override the veto by taking a second vote.
Prior to the vote, protesters outside the parliament building rallied against the measure, some chanting "yes to life" while others held up religious images and crosses.
Because of the serious nature of the bill, each legislator was required to state their vote on the bills, as opposed to electronic voting. Voting in such a way is usually reserved for weighty matters like impeachment or a declaration of war.
The practice of euthanasia is presently legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland and in several U.S. states.
The Catholic Church in Portugal led the efforts against legalizing euthanasia, having unsuccessfully attempted to persuade lawmakers to allow a popular vote in a referendum on the issue.
Portugal’s Constitution asserts that human life is “sacrosanct.”
A Socialist party lawmaker said the goal of the bills was to allow Portuguese citizens to “make intimate choices, without breaking the law.”
The pending provision covers patients over the age of 18 who are “in a situation of extreme suffering, with an untreatable injury or a fatal and incurable disease.”
In order for someone to meet that criteria, two doctors, at least one of whom specializes in the relevant condition from which the patient is suffering, and a psychiatrist are required to sign off.
Those seeking to end their lives are then processed through a Verification and Evaluation Committee, which may approve or reject the request, the proposals stipulate, and the process is delayed if challenged legally, or should the patient lose consciousness.
The measures contain allowances for health practitioners with moral objections to refuse to perform the procedure on moral grounds.
Telmo Correia, a lawmaker from the right-leaning Popular Party, described euthanasia as “a sinister step backward for civilization” and observed that none of the parties backing the legalization efforts mentioned euthanasia in their platforms for the upcoming general election in October.
In the United States, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Washington state, Oregon, California, and Hawaii, along with the District of Columbia have legalized assisted suicide. Montana does not have a state law on the books but the option is legal in the state following a state Supreme Court ruling.