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Portugal's parliament approves euthanasia bill

November 5, 2021

Portugal's majority-center-left parliament has approved a revised bill permitting doctor-assisted suicide. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa still needs to sign the bill into law, and he is known to have reservations.

A frail hand in a hospital setting
The president has yet to sign it the bill into law and can still veto the bill or refer it back to the Constitutional CourtImage: Sami Belloumi/dpa/picture alliance

The parliament in Portugal approved a rephrased euthanasia bill to allow doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill and severely injured Friday.

The new version of the bill passed with a 138-84 vote and five abstentions. The bill still requires the signature of President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a devout Catholic who is known to have deep reservations about the bill, having previously referred it to the Constitutional Court for assessment.

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Rephrasing the 'imprecise' 

The rephrasing of the bill clarified the "imprecise" definition for when euthanasia would be possible after the Constitutional Court found that the bill's previous reference to "a definitive injury of extreme seriousness in accordance with scientific consensus" lacked "indispensable rigor."

The new version of the bill, which passed Friday, said euthanasia could be possible in cases of "serious injury, definitive and amply disabling, which makes a person dependent on others or on technology to undertake elementary tasks of daily life," and where there is "very high certainty or probability that such limitations endure over time without the possibility of cure or significant improvement."

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The president can still veto the bill or refer it back to the Constitutional Court.

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Center-left legislators who sponsored the bill, made the revisions that the Constitutional Court had requested. Previously, the center-left in parliament sponsored laws that permit abortion in 2007 and gay marriage in 2010.

Lawmakers from the Socialist Party, the Left Block, the pro-animal rights party PAN, the Greens and Liberal Initiative all voted in favor of the euthanasia bill, though seven members of the Socialist Party voted against.

The left faces criticism from right-leaning politicians for passing the bill when the proposed 2022 state budget did not pass. Early parliamentary elections have been called for late January.

The parliament is expected to be formally dissolved later this month.

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ar/nm (AFP, AP)