Brussels (Brussels Morning) Spain’s lower House of Parliament gave majority support to the country’s first euthanasia law in an historic vote on Thursday, El Pais reported.
The bill, aimed at regulating the right to a dignified death, drew cross-party support, and was approved with 198 votes for and 138 against, with two abstentions. It still needs to pass the upper house, but, should the Senate introduce no amendments, the law could come into effect in the early months of 2021.
Euthanasia an option
If passed, the law would allow people suffering from serious and incurable medical conditions to request and receive assistance to end their lives. However, it does envisage certain fail-safe measures. The patient will have to petition for assisted euthanasia on four separate occasions, and the purported cause will have to be backed by accompanying medical records. Moreover, individual healthcare workers would retain their right to conscientious objection.
After the procedure has been approved by an evaluating committee, patients will be required to give their final consent. According to proponents of the law, its provisions guarantee that euthanasia will be an option for those facing long-term suffering and a degrading quality of life, but it could never be imposed.
The text of the law does not explicitly mention the term “assisted suicide”, but it does refer to the direct administration to a patient of a substance by the relevant healthcare professional, and supplying a patient with a substance that can be self-administered to cause death.
This means both euthanasia and medically assisted suicide will be an option. The law stipulates that the procedure could be carried out at a health centre, or at the patient’s home.
Once the law comes into effect, Spain will become the sixth country in the world to recognise this right, joining the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and New Zealand. Public polls in Spain show that a majority of Spaniards are in favour of regulating the right to die, and multiple parties stood in support of the bill. Only centre-right groups, such as the Popular Party (PP) or the far-right party Vox voted against the bill.