Spain takes major step towards legalising euthanasia

The vote means Spain is on course to become the latest country in the world to legalise euthanasia

Anti-euthanasia protestors in masks outside the Spanish Parliament (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Anti-euthanasia protestors in masks outside the Spanish Parliament (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Spain took a huge leap towards legalising euthanasia after lawmakers voted on Thursday in favour of a law which has proved controversial in a deeply Catholic country.  

Spain’s left-wing coalition government passed the law by 198 votes in favour and 138 votes against in the parliament’s lower house.

The legislation will now pass to the senate or upper house of parliament and should  come into force by early next year.

The law will allow only patients whose lives are unbearable due to chronic and incurable illness to take their own lives under strict medical supervision and control.

Spain is on course to become the latest country in the world to legalise euthanasia nationwide, along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada, while some US states also permit it or assisted suicide. Recently New Zealand also approved an assisted dying law.

The vote came after a long battle by campaigners which inspired the 2001 award-winning film The Sea Inside starring Javier Bardem about the tetraplegic former writer Ramon Sampedro who fought for the right to take his own life.  

Ángel Hernández, a pensioner who moved millions last year when he filmed the process of ending the life of his wife, María José Carrasco, a multiple sclerosis patient, said he had been self-isolating during the Covid pandemic.

“I don’t leave the house because I promised María José I would live to see the day the law was passed,” Mr Hernández told the newspaper La Vanguardia.

The legislation will allow patients who suffer from "a serious and incurable disease" or "a serious, chronic and disabling disease” that is causing “intolerable” suffering to ask their doctor to trigger the process of euthanasia.

That doctor must seek a second opinion from an independent specialist before a committee of health professionals must sign off on the decision to end the patient’s life or supply pharmaceuticals to facilitate suicide.

The process is only available to adults who reside legally in Spain, including the 300,000 Britons living in the country, many of whom are elderly.  

The law was supported by all political parties except the conservative People's Party and the far-right party Vox.  

“This is an issue which crosses society and which is above ideologies,” Socialist health minister Salvador Illa told parliament.

The People's Party called for greater development of palliative care for incurable patients instead of euthanasia.

Lourdes Méndez-Monasterio, a Vox MP, said: “This law means the destruction of our culture just when the world is celebrating the birth of God.”  

In a last-ditch attempt to prevent the Spanish parliament passing the law, Spanish Catholic bishops called on the country’s faithful to take part in a day of fasting and prayer.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in