Portugal’s highest court has ruled that a new bill passed in January sanctioning euthanasia is unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court adjudicated on the matter after the President of Portugal referred the bill to the court to test its constitutionality before signing it into law.
In a 7:5 ruling on Monday, the judges agreed with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s assessment that the legislation contained “excessively undefined concepts.”
The bill which was approved by the Portuguese Parliament allowed for people over the age of 18 to request euthanasia if they were terminally ill and suffering from “lasting” and “unbearable” pain.
As is the case with similar bills in other countries, including Ireland, the definitions and terms used in the bill were unclear, imprecise and open to widespread abuse.
Monday’s ruling is a definite setback to the pro-euthanasia lobby. It won’t stop them from continuing to push for changes to the law but it does draw much needed attention to the way words and language are used and twisted in the debate, and the consequences of all this for the most vulnerable members of society.
The debate surrounding the Private Members’ Bill currently before the Dáil has drawn attention to similar issues regarding language and definitions and the impossibility of safeguarding against laws on euthanasia being abused and misused once the okay is given for euthanasia and assisted suicide to take place. In this regard, Monday’s ruling is a timely and helpful decision.