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Spanish lawmakers vote to debate euthanasia

Euthanasia — or assisted dying — is currently illegal in Spain.
Euthanasia — or assisted dying — is currently illegal in Spain. Copyright Flickr/Alberto Biscalchin
Copyright Flickr/Alberto Biscalchin
By Alice Tidey
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Euthanasia — or assisted dying — is currently illegal in Spain but lawmakers have approved a motion to debate a bill which would make it legal to cause or help cause the 'painless' death of people in certain cases.

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Spain took the first step toward potentially legalising euthanasia on Thursday after lawmakers voted in favour of examining a bill on the issue.

The bill was introduced to Spain’s lower house by the Catalan regional parliament which approved it last July. It aims to modify parts of article 143 of Spain’s penal code, which currently prevents anyone from assisting another person suffering from a terminal illness or one “that causes serious, permanent ailments that are difficult to endure” in ending their lives.

The motion was approved with 175 votes in favour, 136 against and 32 abstentions. It was backed by left-wing lawmakers, while the ruling conservative Popular Party voted against. Lawmakers from the centre-right Cuidadanos party abstained.

At present, the only recourse for people with terminal illness is to refuse treatment. The bill would make it legal for people to cause or help cause the “reliable, peaceful, painless death” of those suffering terminal illness or difficult to endure ailments if they “specifically, freely and unequivocally” ask for it.

The vote came on the same day British-Australian scientist David Goodall, 104, ended his life at a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.

“One should be free to choose the death, when death is at an appropriate time,” he had previously said.

The world-renowned botanist, who did not suffer from a terminal illness, had been forced to travel to the European country from his residence in Australia where euthanasia is illegal.

Assisted dying has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s, if performed by someone with no direct interest in the death. Germany, Finland, and Austria allow physician-assisted death under specific scenarios.

The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg allow assisted dying for patients considered to be suffering unbearable pain with no cure.

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