Spain becomes fifth country to pass euthanasia law

by Deborah Cater
Euthanasia Law by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images
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MADRID – Spain approves euthanasia law. Patients must “suffer a serious or incurable disease or a serious or chronic condition” before they can request help to end their lives according to the legislation.

On 18th March, Spain joined the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Canada in regulating euthanasia. The law was opposed by parties such as the PP and far-right Vox.

The Congress of Deputies passed a law promoted by PSOE, which is governing in coalition with Unidas Podemos. The legislation will come into force in three months.

When euthanasia is allowed

Only persons who “suffer a serious or incurable disease or a serious, chronic and incapacitating condition,” which causes them “intolerable suffering” may request an end to their life. The legislation covers euthanasia, i.e. “the direct administration of a substance by the relevant medical professionals,” as well as what is known as medically assisted suicide, with the “prescription or supply to the patient by a medical professional of a substance, in a way that this can be self-administered, to cause their own death.”

One of five countries with euthanasia law

Following the law’s approval, Spain joins four other countries which regulate euthanasia. In Portugal, the Constitutional Court has opposed such a move. In Colombia the practice is legal, according to a court ruling, but not regulated. New Zealand has a similar law scheduled to come into force in November. Parts of the United States and Australia also permit euthanasia.

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The process

The Spanish legislation sets out a series of steps, which could take up to a month, from the moment the patient requests it. First, there is a written request which should be submitted twice over the space of two weeks. In the letter, the patient must express their clear wish to end their life. They must also inform they have information regarding their condition and the alternatives available to them. The patient may change their mind at any time. Further, once authorisation is received, they can delay the application for as long as they want.  

Once the second request is made, the patient’s doctor passes the request to the corresponding regional commission. The commission will appoint two impartial professionals for its analysis. It will then approve or reject the decision reached by these two specialists. The commission has 19 days to reply to a request.

Right-wing parties oppose the bill

The bill passed with 202 votes in favour, 141 against and two abstentions. Among the opponents to the legislation were the conservative Popular Party (PP), the Navarrese People’s Union (UPN) and far-right Vox. Those parties called for a palliative care law instead. However, as they did not present a draft law, it could not be taken into consideration.  

They claim this legislation will legalise murder. Vox announced it will appeal the law in the Constitutional Court. They also warned if they came to power, they would repeal it.

Supporters of the law say their work will continue. Asun Gómez, whose partner Luis de Marco died after more than a month in agonising pain, said she feared the regional commissions could end up with biases that make it easier in some places to receive the assistance requested than in others, El Pais reported.

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