Spain took a huge step in legalising euthanasia on Thursday when Congress approved a bill to allow those who are seriously ill to end their lives.
Despite protests against the move outside Parliament, the bill was passed by 198 to 138 by the lower house.
The bill will allow euthanasia and assisted suicides for those with “serious or incurable” diseases and for those who would have “unbearable suffering”.
If the bill is passed and signed into law by the Senate, Spain would become only the fourth European country to legalise the practice after Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Canada and New Zealand also recognise a person’s right to take their own life along with Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal.
If approved it could be written into law by Spring 2021, although the Senate could send it back to congress with amendments.
According to a Spanish poll in 2019, around 90% of Spaniards are in favour of the new legislation which currently carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
However, the news was met with fierce opposition by both political and religious groups with protesters outside parliament holding banners that read “Government of death”.
Leader of the far-right VOX party Santiago Abascal said via online video: “The euthanasia law is a defeat for civilisation and a victory for the culture of death, for those who believe that some lives are more worthy than others.”
Religious groups in what is a predominantly Catholic country, do not support euthanasia.
The Vatican opposes any form of euthanasia when a doctor assists a person to die and assisted suicide, where a physician provides a lethal substance for the patient to administer themselves, considering it homicide.
Health Minister Salvador Illa told lawmakers that the ruling was significant.
“It is an important day for all citizens because we are moving towards a more humane and just society. But above all, it is an important day for those people who are in a situation of serious suffering, and it is also important for their families and people close to them," he said.
January 14, 2021