After a lengthy legislative procedure, Portugal’s conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa signed a measure decriminalizing euthanasia into law on Tuesday.
The issue has polarized the predominantly Catholic country, with De Sousa, a passionate churchgoer, leading the charge.
“The president of the republic has issued the decree… as he was obliged to do” by the constitution, the presidency said in a statement.
The final version of the “medically assisted dying” law was adopted last Friday with 129 votes in favour in the 230-seat parliament, including those of the ruling Socialist Party.
“The constitution obliges the president to enact a law which he has vetoed and which has (then) been confirmed by the Assembly of the Republic. I will sign it, of course, it is my constitutional duty,” De Sousa said after the vote.
Over the last three years, a majority of MPs has voted four times in favor of decriminalizing assisted suicide.
However, the wording was met with opposition from the constitutional court and the head of state, a practicing Catholic.
To override the president’s previous veto, the Socialists opted to vote on the identical wording again.
The law had been redrafted several times to take into account remarks by De Sousa, who has twice vetoed it, and after being rejected twice by the constitutional court, which had pointed to certain “inaccuracies”.
The final version of the law states that euthanasia is only allowed in cases where “medically assisted suicide is impossible due to a physical incapacitation of the patient”.
Following the publication of the decrees, the law could come into force next autumn, according to estimates cited by the local press.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently allowed in a handful of European countries, such as the Benelux countries, which were the first to allow it, and neighbouring Spain.