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Out of vetoes, Portugal president enacts law allowing euthanasia

FILE PHOTO: Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa addresses the nation in Belem Palace, Lisbon

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has signed a bill decriminialising euthanasia into law in the Catholic-majority country after parliament on Friday overturned the last of his four vetoes.

His office said in a statement the president had enacted the legislation "as he is obliged" to do so under the constitution.

Portugal becomes the sixth European Union country allowing the procedure. Opinion polls have long been showing the majority of Portuguese are in favour of the right to choose medically assisted death over suffering.

In January 2021, a previous legislature passed the first bill that would have legalised medically assisted death under certain conditions, but Rebelo de Sousa vetoed it due to "excessively undefined concepts".

As parliament kept approving slightly amended versions, the president would send them back to the house or to the Constitutional Court, usually citing doubts over wording, which critics said were mere attempts to delay its introduction.

On Friday, the 250-seat parliament voted by 129-81, with one abstention, to approve the bill without changes requested by Rebelo de Sousa, effectively overturning his veto.

The centre-right main opposition Social Democratic Party has said, however, it will appeal against the law with the Constitutional Court.

The law specifies that people would be allowed to request assistance in dying in cases when they are "in a situation of intense suffering, with definitive injury of extreme gravity or serious and incurable disease".

It establishes a two-month gap between accepting a request and the actual procedure and makes psychological support mandatory.

Portugal spent a large part of the 20th century until the 1974 Carnation Revolution under fascist rule but has since implemented many liberal reforms. It decriminalised drug use in 2001, legalised abortions in 2007 and allowed same-sex marriage in 2010.

(Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Angus MacSwan)