Portugal’s top court rejects euthanasia bill: says “inviolability of life” threatened

Portugal’s top court has rejected a bill seeking to legalise Assisted Suicide, where patients could seek assistance from a doctor to end their lives.

On Monday, the country’s Constitutional Court blocked the law, which had been passed by parliament, saying it was imprecise and it threatened the principle of “inviolability of life”.

The judges rejected the law in a 7-5 ruling.

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa had referred the law to the Constitutional Court last month, saying it was his view that it contained  “excessively undefined concepts”.

After the Constitutional Court’s ruling, Judge Pedro Machete told a news conference the law was held to be unconstitutional because some of the clauses posed a threat to the principle of “inviolability of life”.

The bill will now go back to Parliament to review the legislation and address the court’s concerns.

Pro-life campaigners had been critical of the measure, descibing it as an “unprecedented step backwards”. They had also called for a referendum on the issue and a broader debate, but the bill was passed by Parliament.

In Ireland, the High Court previously ruled in the Fleming case ruled that: “even with the most rigorous systems of legislative checks and safeguards, it would be impossible to ensure that the aged, the disabled, the poor, the unwanted, the rejected, the lonely, the impulsive, the financially compromised and emotionally vulnerable would not avail of this option to avoid a sense of being a burden to their family and society.”

On appeal, the Supreme Court, in 2013, warned of the difficulty in changing the law “without jeopardising an essential fabric of the legal system – namely respect for human life and compromising these protections for others”.

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