Portugal Makes 3rd Attempt to Allow Euthanasia

Previous bills have been blocked for being unclear.

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s parliament tried for the third time in just over a year Thursday to bring in a law allowing euthanasia, after the Constitutional Court and the country’s president blocked two previous bills passed by lawmakers because of unclear wording.

Four rewritten bills that would permit euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in Portugal were due to go to a vote in the 230-seat chamber later in the day. The bills, all very similar, were introduced by left-of-center parties.

At a minimum, the bill by lawmakers for the governing Socialist Party, which has 120 seats, was expected to pass.

Euthanasia is when a doctor directly administers fatal drugs to a patient. Medically assisted suicide is when patients administer the lethal drug themselves, under medical supervision.

Any bill will require the head of state’s approval to become law. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa could choose to block the legislation again or to send it once more to the Constitutional Court for vetting.

Portugal's top court blocked a bill in March 2021, saying its wording was “imprecise.” In November, the president vetoed a second parliament-sanctioned bill.

He said further clarification was needed about whether the proposed law would apply only to incurable illnesses or whether it could be extended to fatal or serious illnesses.

But none of the four new bills addresses Rebelo de Sousa's specific concerns. Instead, they attempt to simplify circumstances where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are justified by referring to “a situation of intolerable suffering, with a definitive injury of extreme seriousness or a serious and incurable disease.”

That omission is unlikely to please the president.

Left-of-center parties in the mostly Catholic country backed the euthanasia bills, as they did with laws allowing abortion in 2007 and same-sex marriages in 2010.