Two traditionally Catholic countries are well on the way to approving MAID legislation this year.
In Feb 2020, the Portuguese parliament approved 5 different bills to legalize MAID and Euthanasia. In October, the Parliament rejected an effort by MAID opponents to require a national referendum; the rationale, oddly enough, was that a majority of the people would object to such a change in the current law. Instead, on January 29, 2021, the Portuguese parliament approved a consolidated MAID and Euthanasia bill 136-78. As per routine, it was sent to the newly re-elected and highly respected President Marcelo de Sousa for his approval. He expressed reservations as to the bill's constitutionality and, rather than veto the measure, referred it to the Constitutional Court of Feb 18. The Court after review concluded that euthanasia or MAID were not of themselves incompatible with the Constitution. However, the wording of the bill to what comprises "intolerable suffering" suc has to authroise a physican to write an Aid in Dying Prescirption needed clarification. The measure was thus sent back to the Assembly on March 15. However, it is clear that the bill will eventually be signed into law, notwithstanding President De Sousa's hesitations.
Meanwhile next door in Spain, the Spanish Lower House, backed by the country's left-wing coalition government, approved MAID and Euthanasia legislation on Dec 17 by a vote of 198-138 in the face of vocal opposition from the conservative People's Party and various religious groups, most notably the Catholic Church. The Spanish Senate by a vote of 202-141 gave final approval to the meaure which goes into effect within3 months.
What is notable here is that the Spanish Catholic Bishops had weighed in on the debate condemning the proposal in the strongest terms. Similarly, the Vatican had issued an open letter condemning both the measure and any legislator voting in favor.The Catholic Church has been a vociferous and ubiquitous opponent to MAID and euthanasia, arguing that only God can decide when life shall end. It is understandable then that the countries which have heretofore adopted MAID/Euthanasia have been largely Protestant countries where the Pope's writ does not carry as much weight: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg. However, the addition of two overwhelmingly Catholic countries to the fold is further evidence of the waning influence of the Church on public policy.
Ed Tiryakian, J.D., MBA, founded Dying Right NC in 2015 and is its Executive Director. He previously worked in international banking in Asia before retiring to his native NC.He believes End of Life issues are one of society’s most pressing challenges as we all live longer and the medicalization of the dying process continues to conflict with the individual’s right to choose his or her end.