Lawmakers in the lower house of Spain’s parliament approved a bill Thursday, amid ongoing protests, that would allow people to lawfully end their lives if they suffer from serious or incurable diseases.
The bill, which is awaiting Senate approval, passed 198-138, in the face of staunch opposition from the conservative People’s Party, its supporters and religious groups.
Many of the protesters who gathered outside parliament Thursday held banners that read “Government of death.”
“The euthanasia law is a defeat for civilization and a victory for the culture of death, for those who believe that some lives are more worthy than others,” far-right Vox leader Santiago Abascal said in a video on social media.
But Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa told lawmakers the society “cannot remain impassive when faced with the intolerable pain that many people suffer.”
Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.
The practice is illegal in most countries but has received favorable consideration in the European Union. If passed by the Senate, Spain would become the fourth European country after Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium to allow people to legally end their lives because of medical conditions.
Without any amendments, the law could go into effect as early as next spring.
After that point, patients who choose to die because of a medical condition are required to demand euthanasia or ask to be assisted to commit suicide four separate times.
The first two requests must be in writing and submitted two weeks apart, while the fourth just before the procedure takes place. All these requests have to be approved by an oversight board with jurisdiction over the patient’s location.
Only Spanish citizens or residents of adult age can request to end their lives. The law does, however, give doctors the chance to deny requests based on their personal beliefs.