Portuguese parliament on Friday approved legislation allowing euthanasia for people who are aged 18 and suffering from intolerable pain and terminal illnesses. With this, Portugal joins the list of a small number of other nations that have made euthanasia or assisted suicide legal. It includes the Benelux nations and Portugal’s neighbor, Spain.

The largely Catholic nation is split over the matter. Conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa who is a staunch churchgoer has also voiced his strong disapproval for the measure, as per AFP. The president opposed the euthanasia measure, which was adopted by parliament four times in the previous three years but was always sent back every time for a constitutional review.

People over 18 will be permitted to request aid in dying under its terms if they are terminally sick and in intolerable pain.

Only individuals experiencing “lasting” and “unbearable” agony will be covered. However, it is not applicable to those whose mental health is considered unfit for such a choice. The law will also not apply to foreigners who enter the country to seek assisted suicide; it will only apply to citizens and legal residents.

The governing Socialists, who have an absolute majority in the house, supported the adoption of the definitive version of the law on Friday. “We are confirming a law that has already been approved several times by a huge majority,” said Socialist MP Isabel Moreira who backed the legislation.

The new law can be promulgated by the president within a week. Portuguese media said that it may go into effect by the autumn. “We have at last come to the end of a long battle,” Moreira told AFP. 

A member of the pro-euthanasia group Right To Die With Dignity, Paulo Santos said, “The adoption of this law has been relatively fast compared with other big countries.”

“There’s a good chance euthanasia will lead to even stronger resistance,” he told AFP.

Belgium, first nation that allowed euthanasia for children

Belgium since 2014 started allowing doctor-assisted death for children of all ages. The legislation does, however, place certain limitations on children who wish to exercise these rights. It is required that they must have the permission of their parents and medical professionals. It must be a fatal or incurable illness or chronic pain.

With the passage of the Belgian Euthanasia Act in 2002, euthanasia became officially authorised in Belgium for individuals who suffer from “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated”.

Euthanasia laws have been controversial internationally. Many of its supporters argue that it allows patients to die with dignity and relieve their suffering. However, those who oppose Euthanasia say that it is unethical and undermines the value of human life.

Source: inputs from News Agencies

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