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Euthanasia – 400 Sign Decriminalisation Petition

More than 400 health professionals signed a public petition launched by the Civic Movement Right to Die with Dignity yesterday to decriminalise assisted death. The request “Health professionals call for the decriminalisation of assisted death” was created in early January and by 13:15 yesterday had already been signed by 492 doctors and nurses.

Manuel Sobrinho Simões, Francisco George, Constantino Sakellarides, Júlio Machado Vaz and Joaquim Machado Caetano are some personalities who support the regulation of assisted death in Portugal. All of whom say the movement has advanced in the four years since it initially launched the debate on the legalisation of euthanasia; a topic that will be discussed again in parliament on the 20th of this month.

The petition, aimed only at health professionals, defends the approval of a law “that strictly defines the conditions under where health professionals can supervise assisted death without being punished.”

In a statement, the Civic Movement has said “We refuse to maintain or initiate ineffective treatments where we know that it would be better to let the patient die. We know the advantages of palliative care, but it also has its limitations. We also understand and respect patient’s will and their desires as well as their constitutional rights even in anticipating their death – through an informed, conscious and deeply compassionate way, – however, the law considers human compassion a crime.”

Doctor Bruno Maia, one of the movement’s coordinators, said that the petition “not only defends the right of the person to decide to end their life but also proves that not all health professionals are against euthanasia. He went on to say that recent studies show that many doctors are in favour of legalising assisted death and the “strong uptake” by health professionals in signing the petition proves this. Unfortunately, he said people’s fundamental rights are being ignored, and legislation to legalise “end of life” procedures must be debated at the Assembly of the Republic.

Asked whether there is a need for more debates on euthanasia, Bruno Maia stated that “society is more than enlightened” on the topic. Unlike many other issues in politics that are debated in a “very fulminating and superficial way,” euthanasia is a topic that has been discussed “for decades” and that anyone who is not aware of the debate raging around this very emotive subject is putting their head in the sand and desperately trying to keep everything as it is.
Many people are looking for information, want euthanasia discussed and have strong pro feelings on the subject, as many have had close friends or family members who have asked for their deaths to be induced medically.

Not everyone agrees with euthanasia. However, many of the parties that prevented it from becoming law when it was debated in 2018, such as the BE (Bloco Esquerda), PS (Portuguese Socialist Party), PAN (Pessoas, dos Animais e da Natureza Party) only managed to win “meagre votes” in the last elections and will now not have enough power in the Assembly of the Republic to prevent the approval of a new law. Furthermore, any failure to reach an agreement will be seen as a “democratic betrayal.”

Samantha Gannon

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