The Spanish parliament on Thursday, 17th December, voted to legalize euthanasia and phyician-assisted suicide in a 230-140 vote while two abstained.
The purpose of the bill is to allow terminally ill patients to choose between euthanasia — performed by a health care professional — or assisted suicide at home with physician-prescribed lethal medications. Lawmakers are set to vote on a final decision before the bill goes into force.
The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón being an advocate that the right to die should be available for terminally ill citizens, had first presented the draft law in February and argued to decriminalize assisted suicide after two failed attempts to garner majority support.
In line with the popular saying, third time’s the charm, Pérez-Castejón successfully achieved majority from center-right Ciudadano and a few other smaller parties on the third trial.
Current laws only permit patients to refuse treatment but punish anyone who assists patients in ending their lives and carries a jail term of up to ten years. However, a national poll held in 2018 contrarily showed that 84% of Spanish citizens support the legalization and decriminalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide. So why not allow the people’s views reflect in the laws that govern their country?
The bill has been described by Maria Luisa Carcedo, a Socialist lawmaker and former health minister, as a “major step forward in civil rights, which will give citizens more liberty.” She also added during the parliamentary debate for the bill, that the law is not an “imposition by the state” because “it is the patient who decides.”
Owing to the fact that Spain is predominantly a Catholic country, the bill has however steered up some religious controversy, with the Catholic church through its Bishops vehemently opposing it on grounds that such laws will unduly pressure patients into ending their own lives prematurely.
“The experience of the few countries that have legalized euthanasia is that it incites the weakest to seek death,” the Church wrote in a recent statement. Conservative parties have embraced this view and have alternatively called for the improvement of end-of-life care.
Despite these religious critics, Prime Minister Pérez-Castejón deems the new law “a great social conquest” for Spain.