Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Portugal's Parliament passes its fourth euthanasia bill. Is this bill also unconstitutional?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Portugal's parliament
The Portugal Resident reported that Portugal's Parliament passed a fourth euthanasia bill on March 31. Two of the previous bills were rejected by Portugal's Constitutional Court and a third bill was vetoed by President Marcelo Rebello de Sousa.

The Portugal Resident reported that:
A new version of a law seeking to legalise euthanasia was approved in Parliament today (March 31) after being changed to address the demands of the Constitutional Court, which rejected it for a second time on January 30.

The changes to law state that euthanasia can only be performed if assisted suicide is impossible due to a patient’s physical incapacity. All references to “physical, psychological and spiritual suffering” as conditions to be elligible have also been eliminated, as judges believed that this could lead to “many interpretations” and be “abused legally.

President de Sousa
President de Sousa, who has been opposed to euthanasia, can sign the bill, veto the bill or send the bill to Portugal's Constitutional Court.

On January 31, 2023 I reported that Portugal's Constitutional Court rejected the third euthanasia bill. At that time  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 previous bill had passed on December 9. Similar to the other previous bills, the bill used vague language, as the Constitutional Court stated, the bill had "an intolerable lack of definition as to the exact scope of the application."

The three previous bills were either declared unconstitutional or vetoed based on imprecise language. The euthanasia lobby appear to be following Canada's lead by passing euthanasia bills that lack definition. Legislation that is 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.

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