The debate on the proposal of the euthanasia law in the Senate has shown this Wednesday the invariable positions that the groups in Congress have already expressed: PP and Vox (also Union of the Navarrese People, UPN) against the rest. The two large parties on the right presented two votes to the norm, which the rest rejected, except the Aragonesist Party, which abstained.
There were 155 votes in favor of the law, 100 against and three abstentions. With the approval of the text, and given that 21 amendments have been introduced, as the promoter of the law, the former Socialist Health Minister María Luisa Carcedo said on Tuesday , it returns to the lower house, which must close the process.
The discussion had a double level. On the one hand, the ethical or principled, with both sides opposing the need to defend life at all costs (PP and Vox) against the self-determination of the individual —Laura Castel, from ERC, and Josep Maria Cervera, from Junts, no they were able to avoid winking at other assumptions—, for which life should be a right, but not an obligation.
There was an inexcusable agreement: “We are all going to die,” as the Senator of Compromís Carles Mulet stated at the outset. But there was no question about whether it can be medically helped to do so.
For the right, this not only goes against the deontological code of health professionals, but also opens the door to an “industry of death” (José Manuel Marín Gascón, Vox) with private doctors charging for practicing it, or to “induce” its practice to any chronic patient who shows suffering (Antonio Román Jasanada, PP). The representative of the popular ones questioned the constitutionality of the norm, but did not clearly announce an appeal in this regard.
Several senators in favor of the law reminded them how they had opposed divorce, abortion and equal marriage, and then enjoyed those rights. Alberto Prudencio Catalán (UPN), has ironized the idea of people’s self-determination, saying that, according to that, someone could decide to live in slavery.
The representative of the PP has also criticized that experts have not been brought to the debate, and recalled that both the Bioethics Committee of Spain and the Collegiate Medical Organization are opposed. Although the law provides for the conscientious objection of health workers, Román Jasanada has said that this entails signing up for a registry, which can be coercive because it can lead to retaliation, for example not being hired.
For those who voted in favor, it is about defending that “the right to a good life includes that of a good death” (Castel, ERC); it is about “a right not to be subjected to a degrading process” (Francisco Javier de Lucas, PSOE); and this “is not about imposing beliefs or decisions, but about the right to live our own life according to our convictions” (Tomás Marco, Ciudadanos).
Another general aspect of the debate was the alleged collision of euthanasia with palliative care. For the PP and Vox, the development of the latter should have been earlier, since they only reach 50% of those who would need them.
The Citizens’ spokesperson recalled that his group presented a bill for this, which did not go ahead because the legislature declined. Esther Carmona, from the PSOE, recalled that there is a national palliative initiative and that these are already included in the portfolio of services of the national health system. At the moment there is no live initiative in this regard in Parliament.
The Senate Justice Commission has once again modified the conditions that must be met by anyone who wants to request euthanasia. It is established as follows: “Suffering a serious and incurable disease or a serious, chronic and incapacitating condition in the terms established in this Law, certified by the responsible doctor.”
The use of the term “disabling” continues to be rejected by the Cermi (Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities), as collected by Miguel Sánchez López, who despite being from Citizens opposes the norm, and affirms that it is a way of pointing out to this group.
PSOE sources maintain that it is necessary to ensure that people who may be in situations such as that of the tetraplegic Ramón Sampedro can benefit from full guarantees, and that this wording avoids personalizing that condition. Jesus Martin,
Among the approved amendments, it is clarified that the terms of each of the six phases of the process are counted in calendar days. Two confirmations from the patient are still needed at the beginning, another intermediate and a final one in a process that, if there is no urgency for the health of the applicant, can last more than a month).
In addition, the regional commission that must approve each request for euthanasia must necessarily have among its members (at least seven) nursing professionals as well as doctors and lawyers, but the detail will be determined by each community. A specialist in mental illness was not necessarily included, as proposed by the PP. The consideration of euthanasia as a right included in the portfolio of the national health service is maintained,
The text itself provides for the law to come into effect three months after its approval, but that depends on how long it takes to pass through Congress. Joseba Koldobika Martinez (Geroa Bai), very critical of the wording of the text, although in favor of regulating euthanasia, believes that it would take at least a year to carry out all 25 preparations (from the formation of the commissions to the digitization of medical records) necessary for it to be put into practice.
Nerea Ahedo (PNV) summarized her attitude with a “Finally!”, Although she criticized that the text in its process has lost the inclusive language (duplicating the masculine and feminine). And one of the latest polls in this regard, from Ipsos, with 85% support for the norm, stood out.
Euthanasia is regulated worldwide in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, parts of the United States, and Australia. Portugal has an approved law that has not entered into force. In Colombia, the Constitutional Law admits it, but there is no regulation in this regard.
Ángel Hernández, husband of María José Carrasco, the woman who committed suicide by ingesting a medicine that he prepared for her, and relatives of Maribel Tellaetxe, who died without her children being able to help her die as she wanted, have followed the session from the tribune of guests.