LISBON, Portugal -- Portugal’s parliament approved a reworded bill Friday to allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill and seriously injured people, after a court blocked the initial version because of what it said was unclear terminology.
The legislation still requires the signature of Portugal’s president to become law, and he is known to have deep reservations. If President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa signs the bill, Portugal would become one of the few countries in the world that permit the procedures.
Euthanasia is when a doctor directly administers fatal drugs to a patient. Medically assisted suicide is when patients administer the lethal drug themselves, under medical supervision.
Parliament passed a first version of the bill in January. But Rebelo de Sousa asked the Constitutional Court to review it.
Most of the court’s judges concluded the wording of the bill was “imprecise” in its definition of the circumstances under which a right to die could be granted.
Among other faults, the court found the bill's reference to “a definitive injury of extreme seriousness in accordance with scientific consensus” - a factor in deciding whether the procedures could be allowed - lacked “indispensable rigor” in its description.
The new version, approved in a 138-84 vote with five abstentions, has a much fuller description.
It refers to a “serious injury, definitive and amply disabling, which makes a person dependent on others or on technology to undertake elementary tasks of daily life.” The bill states there must be “very high certainty or probability that such limitations endure over time without the possibility of cure or significant improvement.”
After the court’s rejection, the legislation went back to parliament, where left-of-center lawmakers understook the revisions.
Left-of-center parties sponsored the bill, as they did with laws allowing abortion, in 2007, and same-sex marriage, in 2010, in the mostly Catholic country.