Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in Portugal: Bringing the EAPC white paper to the centre of the Portuguese debate

Introducing a new, two-part series from Sandra Martins Pereira, Mara Freitas, Cátia Ferreira, Pablo Hernández-Marrero and Manuel Luís Capelas, on behalf of the Portuguese Association for Palliative Care. Here, they introduce the Portuguese translation of the European Association for Palliative Care’s White Paper on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.

Members of the team –  left to right: Manuel Luís Capelas, Mara Freitas, Sandra Martins Pereira, Cátia Ferreira and Pablo Hernández-Marrero.

In Portugal, as in most countries worldwide, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legally banned. However, recent initiatives and a citizens’ movement requesting the legalisation of these practices brought this issue into hot political, societal, legal, cultural and ethical debates. Should these practices continue to be banned? Should they be allowed? Should they be allowed with strict restrictions? How do they relate to palliative care? These are only a few of the questions currently ‘under fire’ in Portugal.

As part of our mission to contribute to the discussion of ethical issues in palliative care, particularly at the end of life, the Portuguese Association for Palliative Care (Associação Portuguesa de Cuidados Paliativos – APCP) felt the need and responsibility to actively participate in this debate. Together with a set of information documents, essays, and position papers published over the last year, the Board of Directors and the Ethics Group of the APCP decided that it was time to translate and introduce the EAPC White Paper on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide into the Portuguese national debate. After several months of work to obtain all the required permissions and decide the best timing to release the Portuguese translation, we finally made it!

At the beginning, one colleague once told us that it would be a TTT (‘Things Take Time’) process. He was right. From the moment we decided to do the translation until now, almost one year has passed. During this period, we obtained all the required permissions, performed the translation, made the required adjustments into Portuguese, and validated its content. As part of this process, we held a vivid and constructive debate to find the best wording for each definition presented in the EAPC white paper.

The day after the political debate at the Portuguese Parliament, February 1st 2017, the Portuguese translation was made available on the webpage of our Association and is now being disseminated through a wide range of media channels. As a main goal and cornerstone, we hope and trust that this translation will clarify such concepts as palliative sedation, forgoing treatment, euthanasia, assisted suicide that are often presented in an inaccurate, misleading way. Hence, it is our conviction that the Portuguese translation of the EAPC white paper on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will help citizens, healthcare professionals and policy-makers when watching, listening and/or participating in public debates. Paraphrasing the authors of the original white paper, all this discussion is having a “sort of positive collateral damage” that we are keen on optimizing: as never before, this political and societal debate is renewing public interest in palliative care.

Links and references

  • Radbruch L, Leget C, Bahr P, Müller-Busch C, Ellershaw J, de Conno F, Vanden Berghe P; Board Members of EAPC. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: A white paper from the European Association for Palliative Care. Palliat Med. 2016 Feb; 30(2) :104-16. doi: 10.1177/0269216315616524. Epub 2015 Nov 19. Download a copy from the EAPC website.

Look out for the group’s follow-up post next week when they will be focusing on current ethical and legal debates about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Read more posts on the subject of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide on the EAPC Blog.

More about the authors . . .

Dr Sandra Martins Pereira (PhD), Instituto de Bioética, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal. Member of the Ethics Group of the Associação Portuguesa de Cuidados Paliativos (APCP). Contact Dr Sandra Martins Pereira by email.

Mara Freitas (MSc), Doctoral Candidate at the Instituto de Bioética, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal. Coordinator of the Ethics Group of the APCP.

Cátia Ferreira (MSc), Centro Hospitalar de S. João, Porto, Portugal. Member of the Board of Directors and of the Ethics Group of the APCP.

Professor Pablo Hernández-Marrero (PhD), Instituto de Bioética, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal. UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, Institute of Bioethics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal.

Professor Manuel Luís Capelas (PhD), Instituto de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisboa, Portugal. President of the APCP.

 

This entry was posted in ADVOCACY & POLICY, EAPC White Papers, Guidelines & Recommendations, Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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