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Portugal“s president faces decision over euthanasia after lawmakers“ vote


Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa addresses the nation to announce his decision to dissolve parliament triggering snap general elections, in Belem Palace, Lisbon, Portugal, November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Portugal’s parliament voted again on Friday in favour of decriminalising euthanasia in the Catholic-majority country but the bill, which has already been vetoed by the president twice, could still face a bumpy road to become law.

The debate on making medically assisted death legal in Portugal under certain conditions started in 2018, when parliament rejected a bill that would have legalised it.

But in January 2021, a previous legislature passed the first bill to legalise it, but conservative president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vetoed it due to “excessively undefined concepts”.

Last November, lawmakers approved a revised bill, but the president vetoed it again, arguing the language used to describe terminal conditions continued to be contradictory and needed to be clarified.

After Friday’s 126-84 vote, the bill will be sent to Rebelo de Sousa, who can either sign it into law, veto it again or send to the Constitutional Court. He said on Thursday he would be quick to announce his decision.

The approved bill addressed some of his concerns, specifying that people would be allowed to request assistance in dying in cases when they are “in a situation of intense suffering, with definitive injury of extreme gravity or serious and incurable disease”.

It dropped the term “fatal disease”, established a two-month gap between accepting a request and the actual procedure and made psychological support mandatory.

The Portuguese Bishops’ Conference said in a statement that it did not agree with the legalisation, describing it as a “serious threat to humanity”.

If euthanasia is decriminalised, Portugal would become the sixth country in the European Union allowing the procedure.

Portugal spent a large part of the 20th century until the 1974 Carnation revolution under fascist rule but has since implemented many liberal reforms. It legalised abortions in 2007 and allowed same-sex marriage in 2010.