Euthanasia is getting closer and closer in Spain. The Justice Commission of the Congress of Deputies has given the green light this Thursday to the final text of the law waiting for you to address its approval in plenary, something that may happen next week. After overcoming the amendment period, the norm, proposed by the PSOE, has obtained the votes in favor of the majority of the parties, in total 22 of the 36, and the ‘no’ of PP and VOX, who already opposed her when she began her parliamentary career.
2020 is likely to end with the process almost completed (with the exception of the last step in the Senate), an agility that has unleashed criticism from the opposition in recent days. The idea of the Board of Spokespersons was to bring the law fully before Christmas, on December 17. After complaints from some parties, the president of Congress, Meritxel Batet, agreed to put the date on hold and to reconvene the Board telematically to confirm the day.
The amendments approved in committee hardly modify the substance of the law, which seems that this time it will go ahead after the several times it has reached Congress in recent years. However, the parties will be able to keep the amendments alive for the next vote in plenary, so there may still be changes.
Its objective is to regulate euthanasia and provide legal coverage for medical aid to die for people in certain situations. Either applying by a doctor medicines to cause death or providing them so that she is the one who applies them. The idea is that it is a public benefit that people of legal age may request when they suffer a serious and incurable disease or a serious, chronic and disabling condition. You must have “full capacity to act” and decide and request it autonomously, consciously and informed.
The debate on euthanasia in Spain has occupied the public agenda since the tetraplegic Ramón Sampedro requested help to die in the early 1990s. Later, there have been several people who have requested it and have even made their cases public to press for the approval of a regulatory framework. The last was that of María José Carrasco, the woman with end-stage multiple sclerosis who was helped to die by her husband, Ángel Hernández, and to whom the Prosecutor’s Office requests six months in prison for cooperating with suicide.
“An extremely guaranteeing law”
The session in the Justice Commission has strengthened the positions of the different groups. “It is an extremely guaranteeing law that wants to ensure that the person who repeatedly makes the decision is the person who suffers a certain situation that they are not willing to endure,” explained the socialist María Luisa Carcedo, who has defended “a majority support of Spanish society and professionals “to euthanasia. According to a 2017 Metroscopia survey, 84% of Spaniards are in favor of recognizing the right.
Only PP and Vox, who presented alternative proposals rejected by the plenary on September 10, have been against, accusing the rest of “crossing a red line” and “choosing to be able to cause death instead of betting on alleviating suffering”, in the words of the popular deputy José Ignacio Echániz. The deputy of Vox Lourdes Méndez has assured that her party will appeal the law, has predicted that it will have “terrifying consequences” and has described it as “barbarism”: “We are the only group that defends life from conception to natural death”, has settled.
The rest of the parties have shown in general terms favorable to the future regulation, although many have asked for some changes such as that it can be carried out in nursing homes or that practical obstacles be purified as much as possible. From United We Can, Rosa María Medel recalled that “no one is forced to euthanize” because “it is about the right to a dignified death” and Sara Giménez, from Ciudadanos, has remarked that “a balance of fundamental rights is intended” in line with other countries that already have similar laws such as the Netherlands, Belgium or Canada.
This is how the process will be
The rule provides that it can be performed in health centers or at home, and the patient who requests it must go through several filters. The first will be that of your responsible doctor, who will have to give the go-ahead. After 15 days you must re-formulate the request. Within a maximum period of two days, the doctor will carry out a “deliberative procedure” with the patient on his diagnosis, the therapeutic possibilities and palliative care. Within 24 hours, the applicant must confirm if they want to continue with the process.
Subsequently, the doctor has to consult a second doctor, who will confirm that the requirements are met in ten days and send the opinion to a commission whose members will be agreed between the regional governments and the Ministry of Health. This group must give the final green light. In the event that health workers consider that death or loss of consciousness is going to be “imminent”, the terms can be shortened. Physicians shall have the right to conscientious objection.
This is one of the most controversial points of the project and to which some political formations and associations such as the Right to Die with dignity (DMD) oppose. They are concerned that in practice this commission “represents a prior obstacle” for anyone who wants to request euthanasia or assisted suicide, and that depending on the people that comprise it, it is a body that ends up imposing obstacles to the law.