Human Rights
Spain becomes the fifth country in the world to regulate euthanasia

hospital care
Photo by Muskan Anand © Photo by Muskan Anand

On March 18, the Spanish Parliament approved the Organic Law for the Regulation of Euthanasia. This makes Spain the fifth country in the world to regulate it after Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada that represents a milestone regarding the individual freedom of Spanish citizens. These are the key aspects of the regulation in Spain.

  • The Law includes euthanasia, as well as medically assisted suicide.
  • It can be requested by persons with Spanish nationality or legal residence in Spain, of full age, capable and conscious at the time of the request. The affected person can stop the request at any time.
  • The allowed circumstances are when suffering from "a serious and incurable disease", "a serious, chronic and disabling disease (...) certified by the responsible doctor." The Law further states that it is an illness what “the person experiences as unacceptable and what could not be mitigated by other means".
  • The application and evaluation process is starting with the will of the concerned person (2 written requests within 15 days of each other); it continues with the evaluation of the corresponding doctor by adding consultations with external specialists who are not involved in the process; the next steps are the decision of an Evaluation and Follow-up Commission, a second control and finally the last ratification of the person concerned.
  • The public health system is the responsible actor that takes care of the process and that has to guarantee access. However, healthcare professionals have the individual right not to attend those requests that are incompatible with their individual convictions.

It is worth mentioning that the recognition of the right to a dignified death and the conviction of the need to regulate it, managed to overcome ideological barriers by receiving a transversal vote that united, beyond the rejection of the right wing, 20 different parties, coalitions and electoral groupings. This was a major accomplishment in democratic politics aimed at establishing norms that improve the quality of life of Spanish citizens and not at trying to shape their consciences.

Furthermore, in times of high political polarization, it is worth noting the moderation perpetrated by all actors, both political, media and public opinion. The complexity of the issue as well as the respect for the suffering of a person in the face of death, allows to exhibit immense restraint even with opposing positions. It is memorable to be part of the moderation and temperance that has taken place both outside and inside the Chamber of Deputies before and weeks after the vote.