Friday, March 13, 2020

Portuguese collect 76,000 signatures against euthanasia. Portuguese Communist Party opposes euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last month I reported that Portugal may soon legalize doctors killing their patients by lethal injection.

On February 20, the Portuguese Parliament voted on five proposals to legalize euthanasia. All of the proposals passed, even though two years ago, similar proposals were defeated. The Portuguese government will now propose a single bill for parliament.

Groups opposing euthanasia started a massive signature petition campaign to urge the government to approve a Portuguese referendum on euthanasia. The Portuguese government requires 60,000 signatures before considering a referendum, but organizers have stated that they have collected more than 76,000 signatures and more are expected. The government would still need to approve the referendum.

The Portuguese Communist Party restated their opposition to euthanasia. Here is their position:
1. The debate over the legalization of the possibility of provoking an early death is not the discussion about hypothetical options or individual considerations of each person facing the circumstances of their own death. Rather, it’s a discussion of political options of reinforced complexity and with deep social, behavioral and ethical implications.

The legalization of euthanasia cannot be presented as a matter of choice or individual consideration. To inscribe in the Law the right to kill or to kill oneself is not a sign of progress but a step towards civilizational regression, with deep social, behavioral and ethical implications that question central elements of a society that is guided by humanistic and solidarity values.

The PCP rejects the idea that dignity of life is guaranteed by the legal consecration of the right to an early death.

The PCP's opposition to euthanasia has its foundation in the preservation of life, in calling for technical and scientific advances (including in medicine) to ensure the increase in life expectancy and not to shorten it, in the dignification of life while alive. It is this consideration of the intrinsic value of life that must prevail and not that of valuing human life in terms of its usefulness, economic interests or questionable standards of social dignity.

2. The invocation of extreme cases, to justify the legalization of the Right to an Early Death, presenting it as an act of dignity, is not the way of dealing with the necessary reflection. In some cases, it can express judgments motivated by its own experience, individual conceptions that must be respected, but it is also, for some of its promoters, a search of protagonism and promotional political agendas.

Today, science already has resources that, if used and accessible, allow to reduce or eliminate physical and psychological suffering. In matters that have to do with the fate of his life, each citizen now has legal instruments (of which the “living will” is an example, respecting its limits) and sovereignty in his individual decision regarding medical abstinence (no one can be forced to undergo certain treatments against their will). Medical practice guarantees no artificial extension of life, respecting death as a natural process, refusing to delay it through therapeutic obstinacy. There is a substantial difference between artificially maintaining life or deliberately anticipating death, between decreasing or eliminating suffering from illness or precipitating the end of life.

3. In a context in which the value of human life is often relativized due to criteria of social utility, economic interests, family responsibilities and costs or public spending, the legalization of the provocation of an early death would add a new dimension of problems.

It would immediately contribute to the consolidation of the political and social options that lead to this devaluation of human life and would introduce a relevant social problem resulting from the pressure of referral for the early death of all those to whom society refuses to answer and support its situation of special frailty or need. Furthermore, the legalization of this possibility would further limit the conditions for the State to promote, in the field of mental health, the fight against suicide.

4. The principle of equality implies that the same social dignity is recognized for all, and it is not legitimate to interpret that a person “with permanent injury or incurable disease” or “in extreme suffering” is diminished by such a circumstance in the dignity of his life. And even more that this same dignity is invoked to enshrine in law the right to death, based on a law of the Republic.

Life is not worthy only when (and while) it can be lived in the full use of physical and mental capacities and faculties and society must ensure the conditions for a dignified life in all stages of the human journey, from the least autonomous (be it childhood or old age) to those with greater autonomy; in the presence of healthy conditions or illness; within the framework of the full integrity of physical, motor or intellectual faculties or of a more or less profound disability, be it congenital or supervening.

What is needed is that the advancement and civilizational progress and the increase in life expectancy resulting from scientific evolution are called upon to guarantee a life with dignified material conditions in all its phases.

5. The PCP affirms its opposition to legislation that institutionalizes the provocation of an early death in whatever form it takes - at the request in the form of assisted suicide or euthanasia -, as well as possible proposals for referenda on the matter.

The PCP will continue to fight for the implementation, in a political and legislative level, of measures that respond to the full needs of users of the National Health Service, namely in the reinforcement of serious investment in palliative care, including home care; guaranteeing the right of everyone to refuse to undergo certain treatments; ensuring that medical practice does not artificially prolong life; in the development, improvement and right of access for everyone to use the resources that science can make available, in order to guarantee to everyone, up to the limit of life, the dignity due to each human being.

6. This is the profoundly humanistic conception of life that the PCP defends and that its political project of social progress embodies. A conception that does not give up on life, that fights for decent living conditions for all and demands policies that guarantee them from the start by the material conditions necessary in life, at work and in society.

Faced with the problems of human suffering, illness, disability or incapacity, the solution is not to make society less responsible by promoting the early death of people in these circumstances, but rather to social progress in order to ensure conditions for a dignified life, mobilizing all social means and capacities, science and technology to overcome suffering and disease and ensure social inclusion and family support.

The preservation of human life, and not the abandonment of life, is a heritage that integrates real humanism - and not proclaiming - that the PCP assumes in principles and in the struggle.

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