Portugal’s Constitutional Court on Monday rejected as unconstitutional a bill approved by parliament earlier this year to allow terminally ill patients to seek assistance from a doctor to end their lives.
The decision came after the country’s recently re-elected President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a conservative, asked the court to evaluate the legislation on the grounds that it appeared to contain “excessively undefined concepts”.
Under the bill approved by parliament in January, people aged over 18 would be allowed to request assistance in dying if they were terminally ill and suffering from “lasting” and “unbearable” pain – unless they were deemed not to be mentally fit to make such a decision.
Rebelo de Sousa had previously said he would respect the parliament’s vote but he still decided to send it to the Constitutional Court for review.
Judge Pedro Machete told a news conference the law was unconstitutional because some of the clauses posed a threat to the principle of “inviolability of life”.
Parliament can now review the legislation again in a bid to address the court’s concerns and get Rebelo de Sousa’s stamp of approval to legalise the practice.
Portugal, a Catholic-majority country which spent a large part of the 20th century until the 1974 Carnation revolution ruled by a fascist regime, has since implemented many liberal reforms. It legalised abortions in 2007 and allowed same-sex marriage in 2010.