Portugal moves towards legalisation of euthanasia

Lisbon, Portugal(Photo: Unsplash/Vita Marija Murenaite)

MPs in Portugal have cleared the way for the legalisation of euthanasia despite protests. 

The proposals were set down in five bills backed by the ruling Socialist Party.  The bills received the backing of a majority of MPs and will now be compiled into a single bill by a special committee. 

The president has the power of veto but the bill is expected to pass. Once it does, Portugal will join a handful of countries in the world where euthanasia or physician assisted suicide is legal. 

At the moment, people can be legally helped to die in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, as well as some US states. Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in the UK. 

The bills passed on Thursday in Portugal set the minimum age for euthanasia at 18 and restrict it to cases where patients are terminally ill and suffering unbearable pain, not a mental illness, Reuters reports.

Protests were held outside the Portuguese parliaments as lawmakers voted on the legislation. 

The Catholic Church is opposed to the measures and wants lawmakers to call a referendum on the issue. 

Some conservative MPs have also voiced opposition. Telmo Correia, a lawmaker from the Popular Party, said that the legalisation of euthanasia would be "a sinister step backward for civilization", Fox News reports.