On Thursday December 17, a bill regulating the right to a dignified death was (with 198-138 votes and two abstentions) approved on first reading in the lower house of Spanish Parliament. After decades of social debate, it looks like Spain will finally regulate the right to a dignified death.
The bill is about to allow people suffering from a serious, incurable condition to request and receive assistance to end their lives. The request must be made on four occasions and be backed by medical reports, and healthcare workers will retain their right to conscientious objection. After the procedure is approved by an evaluating committee, the patient must give final consent again. Supporters said these provisions guarantee that euthanasia will be an option but never an imposition as its detractors have claimed.
The bill will now go to the Senate, and if no amendments are introduced, it could go into effect in the early months of 2021. The bill would make Spain the sixth country in the world to recognize euthanasia as non punishable, and therefore it falls in the same category as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and New Zealand.
In Switzerland, just as in several states in the USA and Australia, euthanasia is still prohibited but assisted suicide is regulated.
- The New York Times – Spanish Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
- El Pais – Spanish Congress approves first euthanasia bill with broad majority
- El Pais – 10 keys to the new law of euthanasia and assisted suicide (Spanish)
- El Pais – 10 keys to the new law of euthanasia and assisted suicide (Translated to English by Google Translate)
Our earlier newsitems on this bill
- May 31, 2018 – Spain to consider euthanasia debate
- July 13, 2019 – Spanish Congress receives a million signatures in favor of euthanasia
- February 17, 2020 – Spanish government passes first hurdle to legalize euthanasia
The full bill
Analysis of the Spanish bill by Canon Eric MacDonald, Anglican Church of Canada, retired.
It needs to be said that while Spanish law may be like the Canadian law on Medical Aid in Dying, in that it allows both
self-administration and doctor administration, it is unlike the Canadian law in significant ways.
First, the Canadian MAID law is not limited to the terminally ill, which generally applies only to those who have an expected time until death of anywhere from six months to a year. The Canadian law does require that death be reasonably anticipated by the condition endured by the patient (and that the patient’s physical or physiological condition be considered by the patient as unendurable); but even that lesser requirement has come under serious scrutiny by the Superior Court of Quebec, and the Canadian government has been given an extension until 26 February 2021 to change this condition in the law, before the Quebec Superior Court will hold that the present law is unconstitutional.
The impression should not be left that the Canadian law resembles either the law in Oregon, Washington or California, or the law just passed by the Spanish parliament.
Canon Eric MacDonald
Anglican Church of Canada, retired.