The Spanish parliament has approved a proposed law by the new Socialist-led government to legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
On Tuesday, the controversial measure passed in parliament by 201 votes to 140, meaning the bill must now go to a parliamentary health committee for debate and then will head to the Senate before returning to the lower house for a final vote.
In Tuesday’s vote, parliament was predictably split, with generally leftist or libertarian parties such as PSOE, United We Can (UP), Citizens, ERC, JxCat, EH Bildu, New Canary Islands, Compromís and Más País all favoring the measure and the conservative PP, Vox and UPN opposing.
While there is no fixed calendar for this process, Health Minister Salvador Illa said he hoped to see the euthanasia law enacted by June.
The new bill, which has been hotly contested by the Catholic Church and other pro-life groups, requires the informed consent of the patient as well as the favorable judgment of two independent doctors and an evaluation commission.
According to the proposal, only those with a serious, chronic, and disabling illness or an incurable disease with a limited life expectancy can apply to be euthanized, whether in a hospital or at home.
Church leaders have denounced the “ideological and semantic euphemisms” behind the measure, while decrying the labeling of the bill’s opponents as “retrograde, intransigent, and contrary to individual freedom and progress.”
Last December, the bishops presented a 48-page document titled “Sowers of Hope,” which denounced the “ideological propaganda campaign” fueling the push to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.
To garner support for their cause, proponents of euthanasia always propose “extreme cases,” the bishops stated, ignoring the legal principle that hard cases make bad law. Once these are accepted the procedure becomes available to a much broader swath of patients.
Arguments are bolstered with “ideological and semantic euphemisms” like “death with dignity,” “autonomy,” and “liberation,” they added, while avoiding clearer expressions such as bringing about the death of the patient or depriving them of life.
The pro-euthanasia lobby also falsely presents opposition to the practice as merely religious in nature, insisting that in a secular society no religious confession “can or should impose its opinions” on the rest, the bishops insisted.
“It is especially contradictory to defend euthanasia in an era like the current one, in which medicine offers alternatives, as never before, to treat and care for the sick in the last phase of their lives,” the bishops noted, arguing that euthanasia is a form of homicide and is ethically repugnant.
In his presentation of the text, the bishop of Bilbao, Mario Iceta, stated that euthanasia constitutes a “defeat for society” and an example of the “throwaway culture” condemned by Pope Francis.
If the bill passes, Spain will become the fourth European Union country — following Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands — to permit euthanasia. Assisted suicide is also legal in the aforementioned EU countries as well as in Switzerland.