Euthanasia: Law published today in Diário da República comes into force in mid-July

The euthanasia law was enacted by the President of the Republic on the 16th

The law that decriminalizes medically assisted death, known as the euthanasia law, was published this Thursday, May 25, in Diário da República, coming into force in 30 days, while the Government prepares the respective regulations.

According to the diploma published today, entry into force should take place from 10 July, as the 30-day period does not include weekends or holidays, while the respective regulations must be approved by the Government within 90 days.

The regulation of the law should establish, among other points, the model for the clinical record of requests for medically assisted death and the model for the final medical report.

According to the law, in the first two years of validity, the Commission for Verification and Evaluation of Clinical Procedures for Medically Assisted Death (CVA) will have to present an evaluation report to the Assembly of the Republic every semester.

This report should contain detailed statistical information on all relevant elements of medically assisted death processes and any recommendations.

The entity, responsible for confirming compliance with all the legal steps of each euthanasia process and giving the final authorization for its implementation, is still shrouded in doubts, because the chairman of the Order of Doctors has already assured that he will not appoint any professional to represent doctors.

The euthanasia law was enacted by the President of the Republic on the 16th, after being confirmed by Parliament on the 12th following the political veto of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

The confirmation, which forced the President to promulgate the diploma, counted with 129 votes in favour, of the majority of the deputies of the PS, of the benches of the Liberal Initiative and of the Left Block and of the single deputies of PAN and Livre, 81 votes against, of the majority of PSD deputies and the benches of Chega and PCP, and there was a social democratic deputy who abstained.

The law may also be subject to successive inspection by the Constitutional Court, which does not prevent it from entering into force. And it can be requested by the President of the Republic, by the President of the Assembly of the Republic, by the Prime Minister, by the Ombudsman, by the Attorney General of the Republic or by a tenth of the deputies (23 out of 230), among other entities.

The PSD has already assumed the commitment to "analyze the diploma with a view to formulating a request for successive inspection of constitutionality".

In the new law, which amends the Penal Code, «medically assisted death is considered non-punishable that which occurs by decision of the person himself, of age, whose will is current and reiterated, serious, free and enlightened, in a situation of suffering of great intensity , with definitive injury of extreme gravity or serious and incurable disease, when practiced or helped by health professionals».

The first Portuguese law on this matter establishes that “medically assisted death can only occur by euthanasia when medically assisted suicide is impossible due to the physical incapacity of the patient”.

Medically assisted suicide is defined as the «administration of lethal drugs by the patient himself, under medical supervision», and euthanasia as the «administration of lethal drugs by the doctor or health professional duly qualified for the purpose».

When the first legislative initiatives on this matter appeared, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a practicing Catholic, defended a long and broad public debate, but he placed himself outside the discussion, referring his role to the end of the parliamentary legislative process.

This was the fourth decree that parliament passed to decriminalize medically assisted dying under certain conditions.

The President of the Republic sent the first decree on this matter to the Constitutional Court, in February 2021, vetoed the second, in November of the same year, and also sent the third for preventive inspection, in January of this year. The two submissions to the Constitutional Court led to vetoes for unconstitutionality.

On the 19th of April, before the fourth decree, the President of the Republic vetoed it, but dismissed doubts of constitutionality, pointing out only “a problem of precision” in two specific points.