Portugal moves closer to legal euthanasia

Portuguese protesters / Euronews

After its parliament approved five bills this week, Portugal will probably become the next country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide. The next step is for a committee to consolidate the five proposals into one bill.

However, right to die is not yet done and dusted. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a conservative, could veto the bill. Opposition groups are also pressing for a referendum.

All five proposals agreed on the usual conditions for euthanasia -- a patient must be over 18, not suffering from a mental illness, and the request can be granted only if the patient is terminally ill and suffering unbearable pain, Reuters news agency reported.

“It is a historic day. It is a big day for democracy,” said the Left Bloc’s leader, Catarina Martins, soon after the proposals were approved.

The right-to-die lobby’s win came two years after parliament rejected a bill to legalize voluntary euthanasia for terminal patients by a slim margin.

Like neighbouring Spain, traditionally Catholic Portugal has put its conservative past behind. It legalized abortions in 2007 and permitted same-sex marriage in 2010.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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