Spanish lawmakers on Thursday legalized killing and aiding suicide for people with serious and incurable or debilitating illnesses who want to end their lives, making Spain the fourth country in the European Union to take the step.
At the last reading, the lower house of the Riksdag voted 202 in favor, 141 against and 2 abstentions. Until now, it had been imprisoned for up to ten years to help someone end their life in Spain.
“Today is an important day: we are moving towards the recognition of human rights. We are moving towards a more humane and just society,” Health Minister Carolina Darias told lawmakers.
The law, available to adults legally resident in Spain, will enter into force in three months to allow time for the establishment of regional control committees that will review and approve inquiries.
Outside Parliament, groups for and against the bill demonstrated during the debate and the vote.
The new legislation meets strong opposition from hard right and religious groups. The far-right Vox party has said it will challenge the law before a constitutional court.
Euthanasia has long attracted the attention of the public in Spain, which has the world’s fourth highest life expectancy, and especially since the paralyzed man Ramon Sampedro recorded his assisted suicide in 1998 after being denied justice by the courts.
His story was taken to the screen in the Oscar-winning 2004 film “The Sea Inside”.
Almost 90% of Spaniards are in favor of decriminalizing euthanasia, according to a 2019 opinion poll.
Rafael Botella, a 35-year-old Spaniard paralyzed from the neck down after a car crash at the age of 19, told Reuters before the vote that he was relieved that the law would give him the opportunity if he needed it.
“If for some reason someone is tired of living, no one has the power to say to him, ‘No, you will live because my constituents or my ideology say the opposite,'” Botella said.
Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have already legalized euthanasia.