Saturday, December 06, 2008

Conscience... and Consequence

Faced with approving a controversial parliamentary-passed bill legalizing euthanasia, heavily-Catholic Luxembourg's Grand Duke Henri instead indicated that conscience would preclude him from doing so... and now, with the tiny Euro-state thrown into "the worst constitutional crisis in its history," lawmakers are preparing to strip the monarch of his veto powers:
Since parliament is expected to pass the bill, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said the Grande Duke has overstepped his role. Juncker personally opposes the euthanasia bill but says he will propose a change to the constitution to deny the Grand Duke his veto. His role by the end of 2008 could be reduced to rubber-stamping parliamentary decisions, instead of deciding whether to approve them.

"That means he will only technically enact laws," Juncker said, according to Reuters.

The euthanasia bill passed a first vote by parliament in February. It looks set to pass a second and final vote next week, but the Catholic Grand Duke announced on Tuesday -- in a closed-door meeting with leaders of Juncker's ruling Christian Socialists -- that he would refuse to enact the law.

The Luxembourg royal house has tried to block a decision by parliament only once before, when the Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide refused to sign an education bill in 1912....

"I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience," said Juncker, "but I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force."

The euthanasia bill has been controversial since 2001. It would let patients with "grave and incurable" conditions die at the hands of a doctor if they ask repeatedly to be euthanized and earn the consent of two doctors and a panel of experts. Medical and physician groups have opposed the bill, though, and so have many citizens of this traditionally Catholic nation.
The incident evokes echoes of Belgium in 1990, when the late King Baudouin I abdicated his throne for a day in objection to a measure placed before him loosening restrictions on abortions. The government temporarily assumed the king's powers, and enacted the law in his stead. Earlier this year, Baudouin's widow Queen Fabiola revealed that she had suffered five miscarriages; the couple remained childless.

The famously-devout Belgian sovereign -- the last person to receive the top honor of papal knighthood, the Supreme Order of Christ -- was Henri's uncle.