Health

Portuguese president rejects decree on euthanasia and assisted suicide again

The president of Portugal asks the parliament to change the decree on euthanasia and assisted suicide again. It will not be approved before 2022 as he has dissolved it less than a month ago.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal | © Presidência da República Portugesa

On November 29, the president of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa chose not to promulgate the decree that would decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The bill is sent back to the parliament for revision. Except that the parliament is to be dissolved.

In a note sent to the president of the Assembly, President Rebelo de Sousa asks the law to be more precise on the conditions to make medically assisted death legal.

The text of the legislation would need to be clear on which type of illness euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal. The text was not consistent by referring to the conditions of access using different terms bearing different definitions.

As such, the president asked “to clarify whether a ‘fatal illness’ is required for a medically assisted death and whether ‘serious illness’ and ‘incurable disease’ are alternative or cumulative conditions“.

Right to life or self-determination

He further called for “considering the right to life on one hand, and the freedom of self-determination” on the other to adjust the text.

In fact, some countries require that the person be terminally ill for a medically assisted death while it is not required in others – when the patient greatly suffers form an incurable disease for instance.

The president already vetoed a first version of the law earlier in 2021. In April, the Constitutional Court, seized by the president, had reviewed and declared the bill unconstitutional because of “insufficient normative density“.

The Assembly of the Republic, the parliament, then voted and agreed on a new version of the law in early November. But on the same day, the president decided to dissolve the Assembly of the Republic because it couldn’t agree on the budget for 2022.

New elections are scheduled for January 2022.

The president returned the law only three days after receiving the bill on his table because he considers “it would be constitutional, but a sign of disrespect, to use the deadlines established by the Constitution and decide after the Assembly of the Republic is dissolved“.

Nevertheless, as the parliament stopped working on Friday to be officially dissolved in the next few days, the bill will only be discussed and voted after the legislative elections scheduled on January 30, 2022.

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