Madrid, Dec 17 (efe-epa).- Spain’s lower chamber of parliament on Thursday voted in favour of a bill legalizing euthanasia.
Right-wing parties in congress opposed the bill, but it was carried over the line with an ample majority of 198 votes in favour, 138 against and two abstentions, paving the way for Spain to become the fourth European Union nation to regulate assisted dying.
The bill will now head to the senate, where it can be amended and returned to the lower chamber. It is likely to come into law in 2021.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, head of the Socialist Party (PSOE), which leads the left-wing coalition government, described the bill as a “great social achievement for our country.”
“We advance in freedom, in civil rights and in dignity.”
The Popular Party, the main conservative group in parliament, and Vox, on the far-right, argued that palliative care was a functioning alternative to euthanasia.
Once written into law, assisted dying will be offered through Spain’s public health system.
The topic of assisted dying has been debated several times in recent years. Right-to-die campaigners such as Spanish fisherman Ramón Sampedro, who was paralyzed from the neck down after an accident, brought the topic to the national stage.
Speaking in congress Thursday, Spain’s health minister Salvador Illa said: “As a society, we cannot continue to be passive toward the intolerable suffering that many people have to deal with. Spain is a democratic society and mature enough to engage with this issue.”
Religious groups have protested the bill.
Assisted dying is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, as well as Canada, parts of the United States and parts of Australia. EFE-EPA