Question on assisted suicide hints at more gov’t strife


The delayed response by Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis last week to a question regarding the government’s position on assisted suicide may signal more strife to come within the ranks of the coalition government.

Ruling SYRIZA has already sorely tested its junior coalition partner’s support on a range of issues – most recently a law allowing people to choose what gender they want to officially identify as – that have underscored the massive ideological divide between the leftists and ultraconservative Independent Greeks.

Kontonis responded in writing to a question posed on March 20 by Giorgos Armyras, a lawmaker with centrist To Potami, on whether the government is considering the legalization of assisted suicide or euthanasia.

In the missive, which can only be described as a vague response to the question, Kontonis describes a lengthy consultative procedure regarding a new penal code that is being drafted by the ministry, without, however, making specific reference to the issue of assisted suicide other than that it has been submitted for consideration to the relevant legislative authorities.

In his written question to Kontonis in March, Armyras had specifically asked whether the government is considering legalizing assisted suicide, whether it has held any discussions with the Church of Greece on the topic and whether it is in consultation with other European Union member states regarding a unified framework on the issue.

The issue of euthanasia gained prominence last year when a Greek journalist, Alexandros Velios, underwent non-assisted euthanasia in his home in Athens after a long battle with cancer.

A prosecutor had launched an investigation into the incident to ascertain whether a doctor had helped the journalist administer the fatal dose, but the issue was shelved last month as there was no evidence of third-party involvement.