LISBON, Portugal (AP) – The Portuguese president has refused to sign for the second time a bill sanctioned by parliament allowing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, arguing that the wording is imprecise and effectively suspends the bill until ‘that a new parliament and a new government be chosen early next year.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the devout Catholic who remained popular for more than five years at the head of the Portuguese state, has already expressed reservations about the first version of the bill when he sent it to the highest jurisdiction of the country earlier this year.
The Constitutional Court rejected it because what it said was a lack of “essential rigor”.
This time, the president is sending the reformulated law back to the National Assembly, according to a statement published Monday evening on the Portuguese presidency’s website, saying that further clarification is needed in “what appear to be contradictions” regarding the causes that justify the recourse to death with medical assistance.
Euthanasia is when a doctor directly administers deadly drugs to a patient. Medically assisted suicide occurs when patients administer the deadly drug on their own, under medical supervision.
While the original bill required a “fatal illness” as a precondition, the president’s argument followed, the renewed version mentions an “incurable” or “severe” illness in some of its formulations. No longer considering that patients must be terminally ill, in the opinion of De Sousa, “a considerable change in weighting of the values ââof life and free self-determination in the context of Portuguese society”.
By sending the bill back to lawmakers, De Sousa is effectively delaying any progress until a new parliament is chosen in a snap election scheduled for January 30. The assembly is expected to be dissolved on December 5 after the split between a range of left-wing parties. the parties led him late in October to reject the Socialist minority government’s draft budget for next year.
Center-left parties sponsored the euthanasia bill, as they did with laws allowing abortion in 2007 and same-sex marriage in 2010 in this predominantly Catholic country.
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