On 2nd December 2008, the Grand-Duke of Luxembourg announced that he will not promulgate law legalising euthanasia.
Introduced in 2001, this bill aiming at decriminalising euthanasia in Luxembourg was adopted, a first time, by the deputies, with a short majority of 30 votes out of 59, on 19th February 2008. Before being definitely ratified by the Parliament, the text had to pass a second reading. On last 18th December, deputies pronounced again on this bill: 31 votes in favour and 26 against.
Revision of the Constitution
But, faced with the refusal, announced before the second reading, of Henri II of Luxembourg to promulgate this law, his Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, initiated a reform of the Constitution. Today, the Grand-Duke can at the same time “promulgate” and “sanction” the laws. The constitutional revision foresees to erase this provision, this way significantly reducing the powers of the sovereign. On last 11th December, the project of constitutional revision was approved with 56 votes out of 60. Nevertheless, before entering into effect, the text will be submitted to a second vote – scheduled in the course of March 2009.
In order to invalidate this accelerated constitutional reform and to maintain the powers of the Grand-Duke, a committee of popular initiative filed a referendum petition. In order this may occur, the committee must collect 25,000 signatures. Moreover, according to this Constitution, such referendum cannot take place within three months before or after an election. Nevertheless, a legislative election being foreseen in the duchy on next 7th June, the referendum could only take place before 7th March or after 7th September.
The debate on legalisation of euthanasia in Luxembourg is not yet decided, particularly as it is not impossible that a law adopted under a constitutional regime cannot be promulgated under another one. Thus, deputies could have to start the legislative process from scratch.
Whatever may happen, the political courage of the Grand-Duke has permitted that a debate on end of life in Europe sets up.