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Portugal, no to euthanasia. The bishops: “It’s the victory of democracy and of life. Now we need to create a palliative society”

Lisbon’s Parliament has rejected four bills legalizing euthanasia. Today the national debate is still ongoing, albeit marked by civilized tones. The satisfaction of the Catholic front that fought for the defence of life. The words of Patriarch Manuel Clemente: protect vulnerable people

For those who animated the campaign against the four bills legalizing euthanasia in Portugal it’s a day of celebration and joy, while those in favour are trying to understand the reasons for a parliamentary vote that only by a whisker failed to see the Country legalize practices already enforced in Belgium, Holland or Switzerland. An ovation to “the death of euthanasia” marked the end of the debate in Lisbon’s national Assembly last evening, although the four political parties that submitted the bill made known that issue would be resumed in the coming months, during the next legislature.

Freedom of vote. “The debate on euthanasia has divided us and will always divide us, even internally. What unites us now is the obligation to take better care of one another, even in the imminence of death”, states the opening paragraph of an op-ed on “Politico”, although in the past days the news outlet had analysed the reasons in support of euthanasia. The bills were rejected also because Portuguese political parties PSD and PS allowed their members freedom of vote, although their leaders reportedly support decriminalizing the practice. Some claimed that the bills were rejected because parliament was not “legitimised” to discuss them, since only the green party PAN (with only one elected MP), included the issue of euthanasia in its electoral program. Moreover, the draft bill submitted by the Portuguese political party PAN (People, Animals, Nature), was rejected with 116 votes against, 102 in favour and two abstentions; the one submitted by Bloco de Esquerda (BE) with 117 against, 104 in favour and 8 abstentions; the one by the Socialist Party (PS) with 115 against, 110 in favour and 4 abstentions; the proposal of the Green Party “Os Verdes” (PEV) with 117 against, 104 in favour and 8 abstentions.

“An inclusive society”. The Catholic front was the first to welcome the results. In a statement, the Secretary General of Portuguese bishops Father Manuel Barbosa, spoke of the “victory of life”, the “victory of democracy and of all those engaged in the battle for the defence of life”, referring to the large front that opposed the draft bills, ranging from Christian and lay organizations to Christian communities, that brought together all religious denominations on the same side. In several interviews the Cardinal of Lisbon Manuel Clemente declared that now “we need to move forward for the creation of a truly inclusive society, where nobody is left out, a society that was made weaker.” Palliative treatment is the leading proposal in Portugal’s public debate, in order to create, the Cardinal said, a “palliative society, where everyone feels protected.” Also the editorial published on the website of Radio Renascenza “publically thanked everyone for their efforts” and “for having done everything possible to show their political representatives that euthanasia is the  retrogression of civilization”; that “human life is sacred”, that “palliative treatment is more than a mere necessity. It is everyone’s right for everyone.” In the awareness that “the question of euthanasia will always be on someone’s political agenda”, and thus “resilience in the defence of life must remain a staunch commitment.”

The victory of healthcare. The news was welcomed also by the president of Catholic physicians Pedro Afonso, who hailed the bills’ rejection as “the victory of healthcare and of life”, ascribing to the debate on assisted suicide the merit “of having highlighted the importance of extending access to palliative care”, for which in Portugal there is still scope for “major improvements.” His position was echoed by the President of Portugal’s Medical Association Miguel Guimarães.

Civilized debate. An equally relevant aspect of yesterday’s vote, reported by the media, is the fact that the bill was rejected by only 5 votes, along with the way in which Parliament conducted “a complex debate”, owing to the subject, and in terms of the political disruption is stirred up. “Expresso”, for example, reported that the debate took place in a “civilized” way, marked by “emotional appeals” and “poetic quotations”, with “less attacks than usual”, to the point that “it garnered the praise of the President of the Assembly Ferro Rodrigues”.

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