22 March 2021,

The debates on the legalisation of euthanasia continue in Portugal.  For now, Portugal does not seem to follow the path of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and, most recently, Spain, the four European countries who permit euthanasia.

On 29 January 2021, the Portuguese Parliament approved a euthanasia law permitting assisted suicide for terminally ill and gravely injured people. The law was adopted with 136 votes in favour, 78 against, and just 4 abstentions. However, on 18 February 2021, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo asked the Constitutional Court to evaluate this new law on euthanasia. He said in a statement that the legislation appears “excessively imprecise“, potentially creating a situation of “legal uncertainty.”

On 15 March 2021, the Portuguese Constitutional Court declared the euthanasia bill unconstitutional by a narrow 7-6 vote. The Constitutional Court stated that the bill, on account of its vague language, undermined the principle of the inviolability of human life:

The rule contained in that article disagreed with the principle of determinability of the law, corollary of the principles of democratic law and parliamentary law reserve, arising from the of the combined provisions of articles 2 and 165 (1) (b) of the CRP, by reference to the inviolability of human life, consecrated in article 24 of the same Fundamental Law

Following the Court ruling, the President vetoed the law and sent it back to the Parliament for a revision of its unconstitutional provisions. If the bill is again approved at the Parliament, the President may sign it, veto it, or once again send it to the Constitutional Court to clear up any remaining doubts with regard to its constitutionality. The saga thus continues.