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On May 29, the Portuguese parliament rejected a bill that would have introduced medically assisted suicide and euthanasia of terminally ill patients to the predominantly Catholic nation.

The bill, introduced by socialist parties that are currently in office, was voted on by Portugal’s 230 parliament members. The law garnered 110 votes, but following intense debate, eventually there were 115 votes against and four abstentions.

In the days leading up to the vote, several hundred people mostly from religious groups and Catholic Church held a demonstration before parliament. They shouted “embrace life, oppose euthanasia!” while displaying signs calling for conservative values in healthcare and condemning euthanasia as abuse of the elderly.

The Portuguese Order of Physicians jointly declared its opposition to the euthanasia bill  on the grounds that it violated the core ethical principle of doctors — the obligation to save lives. At present, there are only a handful of countries that have legalized euthanasia, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Life does not belong to the individual alone. We cannot decide to be born, nor can we decide which family we will be born into or who our parents are. We do not choose our sex and many other aspects of our existence. Death, likewise, is generally beyond our control except in the cases of suicide or homicide. In this sense euthanasia and other forms of suicide are tangentially related to murder.

From the perspective of religion or morality, euthanasia push the limits of human moral standards. That is to say, the beginning and ending of life is decided by Heaven, not something to be determined by man.

If euthanasia becomes legal and acceptable, then it will open the door to other types of “legitimate” killing. Humans are beginning to see themselves in a position to usurp the power that God or Heaven has over life, which portends great disaster for humanity.

The late Professor Stephen Hawking, who suffered from the pain of ALS for over 50 years. When he visited Hong Kong in 2006, he was asked about the case of Deng Shaobin, who was suffering from ALS and had tried unsuccessfully to be allowed assisted suicide. Hawking gave a very interesting answer: “I think he should have the right to end his life, if he wants,” Hawking said, “but it would be a great mistake … However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope,”

While battling with an incurable disease throughout his own life, Hawking proved what one can accomplish despite circumstances. Perhaps others may learn something from him.

By Jiang Qiming

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