The Association of Portuguese Catholic Doctors on Tuesday thanked President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for vetoing the euthanasia bill passed by the Portuguese parliament in November, and reaffirmed that as healthcare providers "they cannot be agents of death."

The Portuguese parliament approved a first version of the euthanasia bill in early 2021. But in March Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the text as unconstitutional. The parliament approved a second version Nov. 5, which was then vetoed by the president Nov. 29.

The Catholic doctors thanked the president in a Nov. 30 statement, reaffirming that human life must be defended "in all circumstances" and stressed that "doctors cannot be agents of death."

“As Catholic doctors, we want to continue caring for all the sick, including those at the end of life, who are more fragile. We will continue to fight for them, to treat them and give meaning to every moment of their life, also giving meaning to the oath that we took as professionals and making visible the Christian faith that we share,” they said.

In vetoing the bill for the second time, Rebelo de Sousa asked the parliament to clarify "what appear to be contradictions in the law on one of the grounds for resorting to assisted death."

The new version of the bill “maintains in a regulation the requirement of a 'fatal disease'” to request euthanasia, but “extends it, in another regulation, to an  'incurable disease,' even if it’s not fatal, and in a 'serious illness.’"

The AMCP stated that the reasons indicated by the president, "namely, the lack of clarification of some expressions used," show "the inconsistency of a hastily reformulated text with the intention of getting it passed during a time when the government is very fragile."

The law was "reworked in 25 hours, to take advantage of a favorable makeup of the parliament which is coming to an end,” the doctors charged.

The Portuguese parliament passed the euthanasia law in its last session before being dissolved for failing to approve the 2022 state budget.

More in Europe

According to the association, since 2015, lawmakers “have deliberately not listened to the protests of civil society, the National Council on Ethics for the Life Sciences and other bioethics associations, joint statements of religious conferences and unanimous condemnations of the Physicians of the Order and other associations of healthcare professionals.” 

“Euthanasia has already been rejected by the Assembly of the Republic, vetoed by the Constitutional Court and now returned without being enacted by the President of the Republic. The facts speak for themselves: despite the insistence of its advocates, there is no good law on euthanasia. This veto marks the end of a legislative process, leaving a bad memory,” the federation said.

The civic movement Stop Euthanasia stated in a communiqué that the time has come for the political parties to make their legislative agenda for the parliamentary elections known to the Portuguese, especially in relation to the problem of euthanasia.

According to Stop Euthanasia, this makes it "very important for the Portuguese to vote."

In addition, the organization stated that it is “extremely urgent to coordinate with the NHS [National Health Service], invest in palliative care and promote better medical care that allows a truly dignified death for all the most fragile and vulnerable in Portuguese society."

"We are waiting for more humanizing policies that put the person at the center of decisions and the life of society," they concluded.