The Constitutional court in Portugal has ruled that a proposed law that would legalise euthanasia in the country is unconstitutional, on the basis that the conditions upon which a person may avail of euthanasia is unclear.
The judges took issue with the phrase “physical, psychological and social” suffering in relation to the grounds which could allow a patient to have their life ended by euthanasia.
The judges criticised the lack of clarity of the phrase, saying that the proposed law “created an intolerable lack of definition as to the exact scope of application of the new law,” adding that “the conditions under which medically assisted death is legally admissible must be “clear, anticipated and controllable” and it is up to the legislator to define them in a safe way for all stakeholders.”
This is the fourth time politicians in Portugal have tried and failed to get such a law approved – and the second time it has failed at the level of the constitutional court.
The result has been celebrated by pro-life groups, with a joint statement from the Portuguese Federation for Life and One of Us saying they remained committed to opposing assisted suicide measures.
“[This] is the second time that the Constitutional Court has declared a euthanasia law unconstitutional and the fourth time, since 2018, that the promoters of this law have been frustrated,” the statement read.
“However, this legislative process does not end with this declaration of unconstitutionality, since its promoters have already declared that they will modify the law again, trying to reform its provisions that were declared unconstitutional.”
“The Portuguese Federation Pela Vida and One of Us will continue our fight in defense of Life,” it continued.
“The effort to control the lives of citizens, the control of our death, should make us reflect on the excessive action of governments and certain lobbies that live off the death of their immense power and their commitment to absolute control of our societies.”
Measures to legalise euthanasia in Ireland have been strongly opposed by doctors, and especially by palliative care experts, who have repeatedly raised concerns about the danger it poses for the most vulnerable in society.
Concerns were also raised by the Life Institute about the move towards seeing euthanasia as a cost-saving measure instead of caring for those who are ill, elderly or struggling with mental health difficulties.