After heated debate, the Portuguese Parliament voted on Tuesday to reject multiple proposed laws that would legalize euthanasia in the country. The vote drew praise from local bishops.
Four laws promoting the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide were up for vote in a joint effort between various groups, including the People-Animals-Nature party, the Green party, the Left Bloc, and the Socialist party. The measure, had it passed, would have decriminalized voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients.
The parliament voted 115-110 against the proposal, with four abstentions, on the evening of May 29.
Cardinal-elect Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima applauded the rejection of euthanasia in Portugal, saying that Parliament had shown “common sense” in an issue that was “so delicate and complex that it goes beyond partisan ideology,” according to the Catholic Herald.
Cardinal Manuel Clemente, patriarch of Lisbon, additionally praised the vote and said efforts should be re-focused on providing effective palliative care for those in need, noting the national health service has only opened 14 beds for end-of-life patients.
“The great project we have before us now is to work for the dignity of life throughout its existence, especially for those who are in a more precarious situation, or need our companionship, as society and as a state,” Clemente said.
Pro-life groups had been protesting the euthanasia bills in the weeks leading up to the vote in the nation’s capital of Lisbon, where they held signs saying, “We demand palliative care for ALL,” and “Euthanasia is a recipe for elder abuse.”
Euthanasia opponents included the Popular Party, the majority of Social Democrats, the Communist party, and the National Ethics Council, in addition to the Portuguese Doctor’s Association, who said that legalizing euthanasia violated the key principals of the medical profession.
Proponents of the euthanasia measures expressed disappointment over the vote, but said the decision would not be the end of their fight for assisted suicide in the country. In 2016, over 8,000 signatures were garnered in the name of defending the “right to die.”
“The issue is now firmly on the political agenda, it is now in detailed debate in society,” said Catarina Martins, the leader of the Left Bloc, according to the BBC.
Portugal, while still a Catholic-majority country, has legalized same-sex marriage and abortion in the past decade, and most recently drawn controversy over the latest euthanasia debate.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Colombia and Luxemburg are among other countries that have approved patient-requested euthanasia.