The euthanasia law arrives next Tuesday to the plenary of the Congress of Deputies. It will be the third time in 20 months that the text will be taken into consideration and, as in the previous two, it will receive broad support from the bench. Without elections or abrupt ends of the legislature on the horizon, those who support the new norm share the illusion that “this time yes” the right to a dignified death is recognized to the Spaniards. But they also do not hide a frustration: “The people for whom we have not arrived on time, whom we have not been able to help,” in the words of the Socialist deputy and former Minister of Health, María Luisa Carcedo.
People like Antoni Monguilod, sick of Parkinson’s who died last October after years claiming to “stop suffering” from a distant diagnosis made in 2007. Or like María José Carrasco, to whom her husband, Ángel Hernández, gave a lethal dose of sodium pentothal in April after an existence consumed by multiple sclerosis. “I do not forgive anyone who dies suffering people,” he exclaimed after self-blame for the death of the woman whose care has given the last years of life.
“This time it seems so, 2020 is the year,” Fernando Marín, of the Right to Die Dignified Association, repeats itself, even with a hint of distrust in his voice, the entity that has struggled more hard for the last decades to May the new law be a reality. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are glad that the procedures begin now,” they affirm from the group of United Podemos and their confluences. “The sooner we get to it, the better,” continues Joseba Agirretxea (PNV). “We owe it to those who have fought for this law and, above all, to those who need it,” adds Sergi Miquel (JxCat). “We cannot leave people suffering for longer,” adds Carolina Telechea (ERC).
Even Citizens, whose role was highly criticized during the first government of Pedro Sánchez for his ambiguity over the rule – he voted in favor in his take into consideration, but blocked with the PP his processing from the Table of Congress – seems to add to the majority feeling of the Chamber: “People who suffer from degenerative and incurable situations must be able to choose freely, voluntarily and with dignity the end of their life,” says a spokesman.
Only the PP and Vox, which total 140 of the 350 deputies of Congress, have positioned themselves against the new norm.
The processing will start from the proposed law promoted by the PSOE, which is almost a decal – some definition has been required and minor tweaks have been made in some article – from which it already received the majority support of the plenary in June 2018 and September 2019. The first time, the processing was halfway through the electoral advance. In the second, he did not even begin to walk because of the political blockade and the repetition of the general elections.
The text, which has the rank of an organic law and implies a change in the Criminal Code, enshrines euthanasia as a “right” to those who suffer “a serious and incurable disease” or “disabling” that causes “unbearable suffering.” It will be provided by public health – in hospitals or the patient’s home – although private centers may also apply it. Doctors may declare conscientious objectors.
The bill provides that the patient requesting euthanasia does not have to wait more than a month to die after asking his doctor in writing. The physician will first open “a deliberative process” with the patient after which, if he considers that the law is fulfilled, he must consult it with another doctor outside his team.
The patient will reiterate his will after two weeks, after which the case will be referred to a control commission, which will assess it again. In the event that all parties consider that the law is fulfilled, the patient will be satisfied with their willingness to die within 15 days of the second petition. To do so, you can choose if you take the drugs that will take your life or if it is the doctors who do.
The request can be denied in two steps of the process. If the physician does so, the patient will have five days to request the control commission to review the case. If this is the one that falls the process, the patient can go to the administrative route. After death, the responsible physician will send all the documentation to the commission for further control. If two thirds or more of its members consider that the law has been breached, the case will be referred to the Prosecutor’s Office.
After being taken into consideration by the plenary, the proposed law will be referred to the Health Commission, where the parties will agree on the articles of the norm. Subsequently, this will be sent to the Senate before final approval.
The common position favorable to the regulation of euthanasia is that, even with a full development of palliative care, there will still be people without a prognosis of impending death who need this law. “We cannot condemn them to live among the suffering. As a society, we must offer them a way out, ”all parties argue in similar terms.
The common effort to move forward with the regulation of euthanasia has not erased some differences between parties. The most important is the one related to the control commissions that will review the euthanasia requests already approved by the doctors.
For PSOE and PNV, these commissions give greater guarantees to all participants in the process, from sick to healthcare professionals. They also believe that its existence helps to “shield” the norm before a hypothetical appeal to the Constitutional Court of PP or Vox and that, in addition, it gives confidence to sectors that are still suspicious of euthanasia, such as some medical sectors.
But other forces, such as Podemos and ERC, have described the commissions as “unnecessary” and “restrictive.” Although the text does not detail the composition and operation – which will be developed by regulation – it does state that they will be named by the autonomous communities.
“Commissions can cause some communities to boycott euthanasia. We have already seen what happened in Murcia with the parental veto, ”fears the Right to Die Dignified Association.
The socialist María Luisa Carcedo believes that this point “should not be an insurmountable obstacle” in the processing of the law. “The law already provides the necessary resources so that these commissions are not seen as a restriction,” he says.
United We, for its part, are confident of “introducing and negotiating” changes in the text “in line with the demands of civil society to ensure that people have the effective freedom to decide on their life and death.”
This control does not exist in the laws in force since 2002 in the Netherlands and Belgium, which have inspired the drafters of the bill. In 2015, there were 7,538 deaths from euthanasia in both countries. In Switzerland, altruistic assistance to assisted suicide is decriminalized.