After more than two years since it was first introduced as a bill, euthanasia has finally been decriminalized in Portugal. The country’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, signed the bill into law after vetoing it four times previously, which is the maximum number of vetoes allowed by the Portuguese Constitution.
The decision to decriminalize euthanasia in Portugal was supported by the majority in Parliament, reflecting public opinion as well. This development makes Portugal the sixth European Union country to allow euthanasia as an option for terminally ill patients when all other options have been exhausted.
Under the new law, individuals will have the right to request assisted death if they are in a state of great suffering with a severe and incurable disease or a definite injury of extreme gravity. Psychological support for patients making such requests will be mandatory, and there will be a two-month waiting period between the acceptance of a request and the actual procedure.
The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, has expressed its intention to appeal the law to the Constitutional Court. However, previous attempts to delay its enactment have already been considered by the court during President Rebelo de Sousa’s previous vetoes.
With the decriminalization of euthanasia, Portugal, a traditionally Catholic country, is positioning itself as one of the most progressive societies in Europe. The country has already decriminalized drug use in 2001, legalized abortion in 2007, and recognized same-sex marriage in 2010. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002.