Spain has become the fourth country in Europe to legalize the practices of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The Spanish legislature passed a new law last Thursday that is set to be implemented in June to permit adults with “serious, chronic illness with no chance of recovery and with unbearable suffering” to opt to end their lives with either euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide.
Before the bill’s passage, assisting someone in death was punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
With a vote of 202-140 and two abstentions, lawmakers in the Spanish Parliament’s lower house approved the bill’s final passage. The law has reportedly been three years in the making.
The bill garnered wide support from left-wing and centrist parties and was celebrated by the nation’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, who hailed the passage as a move that makes the country “more humane, fairer, and freer.”
“Thanks to all the people who have fought tirelessly so that the right to die with dignity was recognized in Spain,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, political conservatives and religious groups in the nation opposed the measure.
The Spanish Catholic Church called the reform “a form of homicide,” and the right-wing Vox party said it intended to set in motion an appeal to the Constitutional Court, according to EuroNews.
This law “violates the right to life, without which no other exists,” protester Alexander Cuevas, 21, who was among approximately 100 people who demonstrated against the legislation outside Parliament on Thursday, was quoted as saying.
Some were dressed as Grim Reapers and deployed a banner that read “government of death” to the sound of funeral drums, EuroNews reports.
To qualify for euthanasia, a patient must be an adult Spanish national or a legal resident and be “fully aware and conscious” when they make the request.
The request must be submitted twice in writing, 15 days apart. Doctors can reject the request if the requirements are not met.
Requests must be approved by a second medical professional and an evaluation body, BBC reports.
The law provides that medical professionals can choose not to participate in euthanasia procedures on conscience grounds.
Euthanasia is also legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Canada, Colombia and Switzerland. In October, New Zealand voters approved the legalization of euthanasia in a nationwide referendum. The new policy will go into effect on Nov. 6, one year after the official vote was certified.