The Bioethics Observatory of the Catholic University of Valencia has drawn up a document entitled, “Euthanasia comes to Spain. Medical, legal and social reflection”, in which we synthetically evaluate the possible legalization of euthanasia in Spain following a bill proposed by the Spanish socialist parties Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos (UP). About 175,000 copies of this document have been distributed so far, and it has been debated in different media.
We present an excerpt of this document for our English-speaking readers:
Bills before the Spanish Parliament
At the present time, two bills have been brought before the Spanish Parliament, promoted by the PSOE and U. Podemos.
Current regulation of euthanasia
Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are criminalized in article 143 of the Spanish Penal Code.
Euthanasia critical stance of the Bioethics Observatory
A – Intolerable pain
It is certainly a moral duty to try to alleviate the suffering of patients with chronic and incurable illnesses, but not to eliminate those patients in order to end their suffering.
Nor does the argument of intolerable pain seem justified, as nowadays there are sufficient therapeutic remedies to eliminate it, especially through Palliative Care.
B – Social demand
The demand for euthanasia does not appear as one of the priority issues for Spanish people in CIS surveys, and the word is not even mentioned on the Spanish Statistical Office website.
We can, therefore, say that there are no objective data to affirm that euthanasia is now a social demand.
Euthanasia prescribing death
C – Position of specialist Spanish institutions
Moreover, professional institutions specialized in the subject, such as the General College of Physicians, state that a physician shall never intentionally cause the death of any patient, even at that patient’s express request” (Spanish Code of Ethics, Art. 36, paragraph 3).
“A completely unacceptable practice, both medically and from a bioethics perspective”
D – It is argued that euthanasia is largely legalized in developed countries
It is also claimed that euthanasia should be legalized because this is the case in neighboring countries, an unfounded claim because, of the 29 countries that make up the European Union, euthanasia and assisted suicide are legalized in only three: the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and assisted suicide in Switzerland.
Moreover, of the 50 US states (plus Washington D.C.), assisted suicide is only legalized in three of them and euthanasia in six; it is illegal in all remaining states. It is also legal in Canada.
E – We mention one of the most commonly used arguments: the patient’s right to exercise their autonomy
Advocates of euthanasia stress that, in the request for euthanasia, patient autonomy should prevail over the value of human life. It should be borne in mind that the exercise of autonomy is only lawful if, in exercising it, lawful purposes are pursued, that is, oriented toward the good of the subject (beneficence) and not to cause harm (maleficence).
Euthanasia critical stance
The legalization of practices such as euthanasia and assisted suicide seeks to show as a good a completely unacceptable practice, both medically and from a bioethics perspective, based on respect for human dignity and its defense under all circumstances.
Addressing human suffering by seeking to eliminate those who suffer is, above all, a failure of the health care system, but also of modern society which, far from killing the weak and suffering, should devote the best efforts and resources available to them, precisely because they are the ones who need these most.
In the current state of medicine and clinical practice, these resources exist, and they are effective in relieving the suffering of chronically- or terminally-ill patients. Through quality palliative care, they are a tool that ensures the dignified treatment that every person deserves by virtue of their inviolable dignity, especially when they suffer from a state of total dependence.
Bioethics Obervatory – Institute of Life Sciences
Catholic University of Valencia – Spain