Spain’s lower house of parliament has agreed to consider a bill that would legalize euthanasia in the country.
Members of the Congress of Deputies voted 208-133 on Tuesday to consider the bill, which was introduced by the Socialist Party (PSOE).
Adriana Lastra, a spokeswoman for PSOE, said the bill was modeled after legislation in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg. If passed, adults with a serious, chronic disability or terminal illness could request assisted suicide funded by the health system.
Before life-ending drugs are administered, patients would be required to receive approval from two doctors and repeat their desire to die 15 days after their first request.
Patients who can no longer make decisions but had previously instructed that they wanted to die by euthanasia would also be eligible.
The proposal is supported by several of Spain’s parties across the political spectrum.
The main opposition to the bill is the Popular Party (PP). According to El Pais, PP spokesperson Pilar Cortés called Tuesday “a sad day.” She said it is a political failure that the government is incapable of “offering solutions other than dying.”
“To talk about euthanasia is to talk about failure, to admit a political, professional and medical defeat,” she said.
Cortés also warned of the potential for abuse, noting that in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal, there are estimated to be some 1,000 instances of involuntary euthanasia cases a year. She said “given time, exceptional situations will turn into habitual situations” because lethal drugs are more cost effective than other treatments.
Last month, the lower house agreed to consider a similar, less specific bill to legalize assisted suicide. That bill, introduced by Catalonia’s regional parliament, did not lay out specifications under which assisted suicide would be permitted.
In a statement last month, the Spanish bishops spoke out against efforts to legalize euthanasia, arguing that “What patients and their families really want is help to deal with the challenges and personal and family difficulties that only happen in the last moments of life.”
They called for laws that respect life while alleviating pain, improving quality of life, supporting families, and offering spiritual and emotional assistance to prepare for death.
“It is striking that a law on euthanasia is going to be submitted when the state has never laid down any law on palliative care,” the bishops said. “It is precisely this care that is widely demanded by society, and health professionals in particular.”
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