Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Portugal's Constitutional Court rejects another euthanasia bill.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Portugal's Constitutional Court has once again rejected, a euthanasia bill that was passed by Portugal's parliament. President Marcelo de Sousa vetoed another euthanasia bill last year before the election.

André Ventura, who is the leader of the Chega party, is calling for a referendum on euthanasia.

The Portugal News reported:
The Constitutional Court considered that “an intolerable lack of definition as to the exact scope of application” of the decree on medically assisted death had been created, noting that the parliament went “further”, changing “in essential aspects” the previous bill.

This was the third decree approved by parliament to decriminalise medically assisted death in a period of about two years.

The first was also declared unconstitutional by the TC, in March 2021, following a request for preventive inspection by the President of the Republic, due to insufficient normative densification.
In November of the same year, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa used the political veto in relation to the second parliamentary decree on this matter, as it contained contradictory expressions.
The current bill passed on December 9. Similar to the previous two bills, the bill uses vague language, as the Constitutional Court stated, the bill had "an intolerable lack of definition as to the exact scope of the application."

The European Institute of Bioethics reported on January 12 on the concerns with the text of the bill (google translated):
In the new text adopted at the end of 2022 by the parliament, the “intolerable” character of the suffering is no longer required in the patient; henceforth, only “great intensity” suffering would suffice. This condition is not, moreover, required in the case of “permanent damage of extreme gravity”. In addition, the term “fatal disease” is removed in favor of “serious and incurable diseases”, thus positioning the act of euthanasia as a means of causing death and not of accelerating it.

More broadly, the Portuguese law in itself raises serious ethical concerns, because it entails, in the words of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a "considerable change from the point of view of the balance between the value of life and the right to self-determination", authorizing euthanasia even when the patient is not at the end of life.
On January 29, 2021, Portugal's parliament passed the first euthanasia bill. On February 19, President de Sousa referred the bill to Portugal's Constitutional court for evaluation. President de Sousa stated that the bill was:
"excessively imprecise," potentially creating a situation of "legal uncertainty."
On March 15, the Portuguese American Journal reported that the Constitutional court rejected the first bill and stated:
“the law is imprecise in identifying the circumstances under which those procedures can occur.” The court stated the law must be “clear, precise, clearly envisioned and controllable.” The law lacks the “indispensable rigor."
On November 30, 2021, President de Sousa vetoed the second euthanasia bill because of contradictions in it's language. The Associated Press reported:
This time, the president is returning the reworded law to the national assembly, according to a statement posted on the Portuguese presidency’s website late on Monday, arguing that further clarification is needed in “what appear to be contradictions” regarding the causes that justify resorting to death with medical assistance.

Whereas the original bill required “fatal disease” as a pre-requisite, the president’s argument followed, the renewed version mentions “incurable” or “serious” disease in some of its formulation. No longer considering that patients need to be terminally ill means, in De Sousa’s opinion, “a considerable change of weighing the values ​​of life and free self-determination in the context of Portuguese society.”
The Associated Press reported in June 2022 that the new euthanasia bills, that were being debated, did not fulfill President de Sousa's concerns. According to the article:
...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.”
A new concerns is that André Ventura, the leader of the Chega, has called for a referendum. The Portugal News quoted Ventura as stating:
"this process can only be resolved with a referendum", maintaining that "an issue of this importance, twice declared unconstitutional by the TC, can only be resolved with the direct participation of Portuguese citizens."
All three euthanasia bills were either declared unconstitutional or vetoed based on the imprecise language of the bill. The euthanasia lobby appear to be following Canada's lead by passing euthanasia bills that lack definition. Legislation that are not sufficiently defined will naturally expand over time.

Euthanasia directly and intentionally causes the death of a person by lethal injection. Portugal needs to commit to a culture that cares for its citizens in need, not kills.

1 comment:

Jorge Ferreira said...

My old country of Portugal is torn between those who push for 'legalizing manslaughter' and those who value the sanctity of life. I am glad that the side that upholds life is being expressed.