A Bill to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide was passed by Spain’s lower house of parliament on December 17.  The new legislation, which was supported by the left-wing coalition government and several small parties, was approved by 198 votes to 138.  Deputies representing the opposition Partido Popular and far-right Vox voted against.

The Bill must now go before the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to be approved, before being published in the Official State Bulletin.  The government says it will then become effective after three months.

The new law will permit public and private health officials to assist patients who wish to die if they are suffering from “a serious and incurable disease” or from a “debilitating and chronic condition” which the person finds “unbearable.”  The patient must have asked to die on four different occasions over the period of a month: twice in writing, a third time in consultation with a doctor and a final time immediately before the process is carried out.  Health professionals will be permitted to be excluded on the basis of religious belief.

The proposed legislation met strong opposition in recent weeks, and on the day of the vote, a small group gathered outside the parliament building in Madrid waving black flags to protest at its contents.  Last month, representatives of six religious groups presented a joint manifesto against the plan which they saw as an “attack against life” and called instead for additional palliative care measures.

A similar bill is going through the parliamentary process in Portugal, while euthanasia is already legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, plus some states in the USA: