Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has vetoed for the second time a law allowing terminally ill people to seek assistance from a doctor to end their lives, effectively postponing the legislation until a new parliament is elected.
The veto, announced late on Monday, cited language used in the bill to describe terminal conditions that Rebelo de Sousa said was sometimes contradictory and needed to be clarified.
Parliament can amend the legislation or override the president’s veto, but is unlikely to have time to do either before it is dissolved ahead of a snap election on January 30.
Lawmakers first passed a bill to legalise euthanasia in January but Rebelo de Sousa asked the constitutional court to evaluate the legislation’s “excessively undefined concepts”.
The court agreed and rejected the bill, saying it was “imprecise” in its definitions of when the right to die could be granted. Parliament addressed the court’s concerns and approved the bill again last month.
Under the revised law, people would be allowed to request assistance in dying in case of a terminal disease, or if they have a “serious injury, definitive and amply disabling, which makes a person dependent on a third party or on technology to perform basic daily tasks”.
But the conservative president argued that it continues to use too many terms, including “fatal disease”, “incurable disease” and “serious disease”, and again sent it back to parliament, which he is due to dissolve in the coming days.
Portugal, a Catholic-majority country ruled by a fascist dictatorship for nearly five decades until 1974, has implemented many liberal reforms, especially this century. It legalised abortion in 2007 and allowed same-sex marriage in 2010.