Spain takes steps to legalise euthanasia

Spain's lower house voted Tuesday in favour of examining a draft law on legalising euthanasia, the second such bill accepted for consideration in just over a month in a first for the country.

Spain takes steps to legalise euthanasia
Photo: racorn/Depositphotos

Lawmakers voted 208 against 133 — and one abstention — to examine the bill, which was drafted by the ruling Socialist party.   

In May, a similar proposal submitted by Catalonia's regional parliament was also admitted, but it only focused on legalising euthanasia.   

READ MORE: Spain takes tentative first step to legalising euthanasia

This latest draft law also seeks to make euthanasia legal in public and private health services.

But it goes a step further by regulating it, laying out the conditions by which a person can apply to die.

It is the first time that bills aimed at legalising euthanasia make it past this first parliamentary hurdle after previous attempts failed.   

“This regulation guarantees to protect the fundamental right to life, but also the recognition that it isn't an absolute right,” Adriana Lastra, deputy head of the Socialist party, told parliament.

“It's a right that must be adjusted according to other values, including that of human dignity.”

The draft law stipulates that a person can apply to die if he or she has a serious and terminal illness or suffers from a chronic, severe disability, and if they are Spanish or a legal resident in Spain.

The patient has to make his or her request by writing, free of any pressure, and repeat that demand after 15 days.   

A person who can no longer take decisions but has previously given official instructions for the right to die will also be eligible.   

Their doctor will then determine whether the patient meets these conditions and ask another physician who knows about the illness or disability to check this too.

Once these checks are done, the doctor will take the case to a regional evaluation and control commission which will give its final say.   

For now, people with incurable diseases in Spain only have the option to refuse treatment.

In Europe, Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.   

Other countries such as Switzerland allow assisted suicide, a practice that lets a doctor provide a patient with all the necessary lethal substances to end their life and leave them to carry out the final act.

Now that it has passed the first hurdle, the bill will go through various stages in parliament before it gets to the final voting stage in the lower house.

READ ALSO: 12-year-old girl dies, four days after parents won 'dignified death' plea


TODAY: Spain’s euthanasia law comes into effect

A law legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide came into effect in Spain Friday, making the country one of a few to allow terminally-ill or gravely-injured patients to end their own suffering.

TODAY: Spain's euthanasia law comes into effect
A man holds a placard reading "To choose to die without suffering" during a demonstration in support of the law legalising euthanasia Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

The legislation, which was passed by parliament in March, “responds to the existing social demand on the matter” and contains “safeguards” on the implementation of euthanasia, the health ministry said in a statement

Spain is the fourth European nation to decriminalize assisted suicide after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The law was drafted following public pressure generated by several high-profile cases, notably that of Ramon Sampedro whose plight was immortalized in the Oscar-winning 2004 film “The Sea Inside”.

It permits euthanasia in which medical staff intentionally end a life to relieve suffering, and assisted suicide in which it is the patient who carries out the procedure.

Anyone with a “serious or incurable illness” or a “chronic or incapacitating” condition can now request help dying to avoid “intolerable suffering”.

The patient must be a Spanish national or a legal resident and “fully aware and conscious” when they make the request, which has to be submitted twice in writing, 15 days apart.

A doctor can reject the request if the requirements have not been met. It must be approved by a second medic and by an evaluation body.

Any medic can withdraw on grounds of “conscience” from taking part in the procedure that will be available via Spain’s national health service.

But the legislation has drawn stark opposition from the Catholic Church and from Spain’s political right, with the main opposition Popular Party filing an appeal against the law on Thursday at the Constitutional Court.