The Spanish Parliament approved, Thursday 18, the law that decriminalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide of people with serious and incurable or debilitating diseases, making the country the fourth in the European Union to adopt this measure.
The vote between lawmakers ended with 202 votes in favor, 141 against and two abstentions, and the result was celebrated with a round of applause that lasted several minutes.
The law will therefore come into force in three months, the time necessary for the creation of regional committees that will monitor and analyze requests for euthanasia (when a medical team administers a lethal substance to the patient) and assisted suicide (when the patient himself- even takes the prescribed dose).
The rule provides that anyone suffering from a “serious and incurable disease” or “chronic and debilitating” can seek assistance in dying and thus avoid “intolerable suffering”. For this, however, certain strict conditions are imposed, such as the requirement of Spanish nationality or legal residence in the country and proof of full capacity and knowledge when applying, which must be formalized in writing, without “pressure. external “and repeated a fortnight later.
A medical team may reject the application if it considers that one of the criteria is not met. In addition, to proceed, the application must be approved by other medical professionals and by a state-appointed review committee.
However, healthcare professionals have the right to claim “conscientious objection” by refusing to participate in the procedure, which will be funded by the public healthcare network. Until now, anyone who has had any proven involvement in the practice could face up to ten years in prison.
“Today we are a more humane, fairer and freer country. The euthanasia law, widely demanded by society, is finally becoming a reality,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote in a Twitter message. “Thank you to all the people who fought tirelessly for the right to die with dignity to be recognized in Spain”.
In parliament, the agenda, seen as a priority for the left-wing government, received strong opposition from right-wing and far-right parties, but received support from central lawmakers, who guaranteed majority by approval. Outside the building, there were demonstrations against and in favor of the law.
“Today is a very happy day,” said Asun Gómez, 54-year-old journalist, during an act in Madrid. She recalled that she was called a “killer” because she wanted to help her husband die – he died in 2017 of multiple sclerosis.
Polonia Castellanos, representative of the Association of Christian Lawyers in Spain, carried a banner with criticism of what he called “the government of death”. For her, people who suffer “are forced to adopt the quickest solution, which is death.”
“Pushing the most vulnerable to euthanasia is a shameful act of social abandonment that hides the denial of better social and health care,” José Ignacio Echániz, deputy of the Popular Party, told the House.
Spain’s far-right Vox has announced he will appeal to the Constitutional Court to try to overturn the ruling.
Euthanasia has long been at the center of public debate in Spain. In one of the most notable cases, Galician Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic, spent 29 years claiming the right to die.
After a series of claims denied by Spanish courts, he recorded his assisted suicide in 1998, and his story was told in the 2005 Oscar-winning film “Best Foreign Film of 2005” starring actor Javier Bardem.
“The law is a victory for those who can benefit from it and also for Ramón,” Ramona Maneiro, a friend who helped Sampedro die, told AFP. She was arrested for her involvement in the case, but her case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
A comprehensive opinion poll carried out in 2019 found that nearly 90% of Spaniards were in favor of decriminalizing euthanasia. This Thursday’s decision was celebrated by activists for the cause.
“If for some reason someone is tired of living, no one has the power to say, ‘No, you will live because my constituents or my ideology say otherwise,'” said Spaniard Rafael Botella , 35, to the Reuters news agency.
Following a car accident at age 19, Botella lost sensation and downward neck movement. For him, the result of the vote in Parliament relieved him because he knew he would have an option if he needed one in the future.
In the European Union, only the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg have legalized euthanasia. In Latin America, only Colombia accepts the procedure, but it does not have legislation regulating the subject in detail. In the US, eight states and the District of Columbia, according to the organization Death with Dignity.
This week, the euthanasia law, approved by the Parliament of Portugal on January 29, was ruled unconstitutional by the highest court in the Portuguese judicial system, the Constitutional Court (TC). The ruling prevents the law from being sanctioned and entering into force in the country, but it does not represent the end of the line for the implementation of assisted dying.
Indeed, in the opinion of most magistrates, the problematic point of the law is not the interruption of life itself, but the unclear definition of the criteria according to which it would be authorized, so that the legislation may undergo further revisions in the future. .