Spain votes to become the fifth EU country to legalise euthanasia

Friday, March 19

(Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Spain has recently passed a bill to legalise assisted dying-with-dignity for terminally ill patients who wish to avail of the service. 

This means that Spain will now be one of five EU countries to have legalised the practice, alongside Luxembourg, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Some non-EU countries where euthanasia is legal include Canada and Colombia, as well as in certain parts of the US and Australia.

The Spanish parliament's lower house voted 202-140 (with two abstentions) on the final passage of the euthanasia bill.

Speaking on the decision, the nation's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a tweet yesterday: 'Today we are a more human, fairer and freer country.'

'Thank you to all those who fought tirelessly for the recognition of the right to die with dignity in Spain.'

The bill has seen some resistance and condemnation, however: the Spanish Catholic Church called the planned reform 'a form of homicide.'

Meanwhile, the far-right Vox party said it would launch an appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Outside the Spanish Parliament, protestors dressed up as grim reapers, while others played funeral music.

As reported by Euronews, the conditions to apply for this life-ending assistance in Spain will be strict under the new legislation.

The person (a Spanish citizen or resident in the country) must be 'capable and conscious' when making the request, which has to be formulated 'without external pressure' and renewed fifteen days later.

Their request must also be approved by two doctors and a subsequent evaluation committee.

Doctors who do not wish to take part in the process can also use a 'conscientious objection' defence.

Dr. Brendan O' Shea, a GP and the Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Health & Primary Care at TCD, recently spoke to local radio station in Kildare (KFM) about the upcoming bill, saying: 'Death is a certainty to us all, and it is important that we have a conversation regarding end-of-life planning and care, and the importance of [related] legislation.'

On whether or not euthanasia could be legalised in Ireland in the near future, he said: 'This [decision] should not be left up to the Oireachtas alone.'

In addition, using the country of Canada as an example, he says that around 3 to 6 per cent of the country's population have availed of euthanasia since its introduction in 2016.

Dr. O'Shea explained that it is vital to talk about the issue as early as possible, as it becomes more difficult to have a rational discussion when someone enters into a crisis stage.

He has since urged the public to have an honest discussion about the subject with family members and political representatives.

Spain's euthanasia bill is expected to be passed in mid-June.