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Portuguese doctors join opposition to euthanasia

Portuguese doctors have taken a stand against euthanasia, alongside the Catholic Church, as lawmakers prepare this week to debate proposed legislation aimed at decriminalising the practice.

“We do not agree, because that goes against medical practice and violates the code of conduct of the Order of Doctors,” the group’s president Miguel Guimaraes said late Monday.

“Doctors learn to treat patients and save lives. They are not prepared to take part in procedures leading to death,” he said after meeting with Portugal’s conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Lawmakers will begin debating five draft laws on euthanasia, including one introduced by the ruling Socialist Party, on Thursday.

Several similar bills failed by a slim margin in May 2018.

Although the Socialist Party (PS) was strengthened in Portugal’s October elections, the outcome of the debate is uncertain because neither the PS nor the main rightwing opposition party have signalled to their lawmakers how they should vote on the issue.

The Catholic Church, which predominates in Portugal, is campaigning against the draft bills both among its faithful and those of other religious denominations.

Unlike in 2018, this time the Church advocates a referendum on the issue in the belief that a majority would reject euthanasia, but parliament is unlikely to back the idea.

The ruling Socialists in neighbouring Spain last week won support from lawmakers to discuss a bill legalising euthanasia.

The vote was an initial step toward approving a proposal that has been championed by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who said the party had spent “years” working on right-to-die issues.

As in Portugal, euthanasia is fiercely opposed by the Catholic Church and rightwing groups in Spain.

So far Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are the only European countries to have legalised euthanasia.