Spain passes euthanasia law despite conservative opposition


MADRID — Lawmakers voted Thursday to make Spain the seventh country in the world and the fourth in Europe to allow physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia for long-suffering patients of incurable diseases and people with unbearable permanent conditions.

The Spanish parliament’s lower house voted 202-140 with two abstentions on the final passage of the euthanasia bill. Legislators from Spain’s left-wing governing coalition and other parties supported it, while conservative and far-right lawmakers voted “no” and vowed to overturn the legislation in the future.

Health Minister Carolina Darias hailed the passing of the bill as an important step “towards the recognition of human rights.”

“We are heading towards a more humane and fair society,” she told the Congress of Deputies.

The bill was the result of a lengthy legislative journey that began three years ago and underwent several rounds of revision in parliamentary committees and in the Senate.

The law is expected to go into effect in mid-June, when Spain’s public health system will need to provide life-ending assistance in justified cases.

Euthanasia — when a doctor directly administers fatal drugs to a patient — is legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In some U.S. states, medically assisted suicide — when patients self-administer lethal drugs under medical supervision — is permitted.

Politicians in Portugal have tried to pass a law similar to neighboring Spain’s, but the country’s Constitutional Court this week blocked the legislation, arguing that the bill was imprecise in identifying the circumstances under which life-ending procedures could occur.

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