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Spanish government passes first hurdle to legalize euthanasia

On Tuesday 11 February, the parliament of Spain voted in favor of accepting an euthanasia bill for consideration. Hereby Spain’s parliament endorsed an effort by the new Socialist-led government to legalize euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide. If succesfull, that would make Spain the fourth European Union country to allow euthanasia.


The bill
The proposed law in Spain would apply to people suffering an incurable condition, with the patient waiting no longer than a month for the procedure after requesting it. According to the proposal, a person is only eligible for euthanasia if he is terminally ill or has a serious chronic condition that makes life “unbearable”. The advance directive must be recorded in writing and a reflection period of 15 days applies to the patient. Just as in the Netherlands, doctors play a crucial role. Each request must be assessed by two doctors and a separate committee must also review the request.

What’s next?
The vote puts the bill on a path to possible approval. It now goes to a parliamentary health committee for discussion and then heads to the Senate before returning to the lower house for a final vote. There is no fixed timetable for those stages, but Health Minister Salvador Illa said he hoped to see the euthanasia law enacted by June. That would make Spain just the fourth European Union country — after Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands —- to allow euthanasia, which is when a doctor kills patients at their request. 

 

Situation now
Both euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are currently illegal in Spain, and carry prison sentences of up to eight years.

Earlier attempts to legalize euthanasia
Left-wing parties have tried on a dozen occasions since 1997 to pass bills to help facilitate assisted dying.

 

Expectations 
Recent Spanish opinion polls have indicated broad public support for the left-of-center coalition government’s plans. The issue has met resistance from conservative politicians and the Catholic church. The Spanish Bishops’ Conference says on its website that euthanasia “is always a kind of murder” and proposes improvements to palliative care. That proposal is backed by the conservative Popular Party which, along with far-right party Vox, are the only opposition in parliament to the Socialist party’s proposal.

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