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Iberian bishops express worries over political moves to legalize euthanasia

bishop euthanasiaPortuguese and Spanish church leaders have criticized proposals to legalize euthanasia in their traditionally Catholic countries, and urged broad discussions of such proposals before they are considered by legislators. “It’s painful this law began its process when we were celebrating the World Day of the Sick,” Auxiliary Bishop Luis Arguello of Valladolid, secretary general of the Spanish bishops’ conference, told a forum Feb. 11.

“In welcoming human life in all circumstances, the Church does not defend therapeutic cruelty in keeping life going mechanically at all costs. But solutions cannot lie in making the suffering person disappear,” he said at the event organized by the Valladolid-based El Norte de Castilla daily.

The bishop’s comments came as the Spanish parliament voted 208 to 140 to advance draft legislation by the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Retired Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez Plaza also argued that legalizing euthanasia would be a “serious and harmful sin” while rejecting claims it signified a “new human right” that could be decided by parliamentary majorities.

The law as drafted would allow euthanasia within the state health care system for patients with incurable illnesses or chronic disabilities, and abolish a ban on assisted suicide. A written request to die must be repeated after 15 days, without pressure, and be approved by a medical commission, with final provisions decided separately by Spain’s 17 regions.

Spanish media said the measure was modelled on laws in Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, which allow euthanasia alongside Canada, Colombia, Switzerland and parts of Australia and the United States.

However, 87% of Spanish citizens backed euthanasia rights for incurable patients in an April 2019 survey by the Metroscopia polling agency. Support was highest among young people.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops in Portugal have backed a petition calling for a referendum on euthanasia, as similar legislation has struck a debate in the Lisbon.

“The Catholic Church is joining this initiative of doctors and other faiths against decriminalizing euthanasia - a referendum would be a useful means, in this situation, to defend life,” Father Manuel Barbosa, spokesman for the Portuguese bishops’ conference, told reporters this week in Fatima.

“Society has to be consulted and heard on issues essential to life, and parliament’s legitimacy lies in serving the people’s common good,” he said. Legislation to legalize euthanasia was rejected by the Portuguese legislators back in May 2019, but was resubmitted after October elections, in which the Socialist Party and Left Bloc increased their parliamentary presence at the expense of the PSD.

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