The proposal deeply divided the Catholic nation
The Portuguese Parliament rejected legalising euthanasia in a tense vote held Tuesday evening.
Four laws had been proposed for the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide, by the People-Animals-Nature party, by the Green Party, by the radical Left Bloc and by the ruling Socialist Party.
Up to a week before the vote the pro-euthanasia campaigners seemed to have the momentum, but the Communist Party surprised many by announcing that it would be voting against the laws.
The four laws were rejected with Communists and the right wing Popular Party voting en bloc against, a majority of the Social Democrats also against, along with a handful of votes against, or abstentions, on the part of the socialists.
The Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, welcomed the decision saying that the rejection of euthanasia should now be translated into greater investment in palliative care. Over the past two years the national health service opened only 14 beds for patients in need of palliative care, and the national network is poor.
According to the Patriarch, “the great project we have before us now is to work for the dignity of life throughout its existence, especially for those who are in a more precarious situation, or need our companionship, as a society and as a state”.
The bishop of Leiria-Fátima, cardinal-elect António Marto, said Parliament had shown common sense and decided according to the general disposition of the population, on an issue that “is so delicate and complex that it goes beyond partisan ideology”.
The bishops, and many other church figures, did not hold back from speaking on the subject in the weeks and months leading up to the vote, but they were joined by many figures from society at large, including the current president of the doctor’s association as well as all his living predecessors. The National Ethics Council had also spoken out against legalising euthanasia.