Executive Intelligence Review
Subscribe to EIR


Portuguese Court Rules Austerity Measures Unconstitutional; Doctors Go on War Footing to Defend Health Care

June 6, 2014 (EIRNS)—For the third time in two years, Portugal’s Constitutional Court has ruled key austerity measures included in the government budget to be unconstitutional. By a large majority, the court ruled on May 30 that the 2015 budget’s 5% cut in sickness benefits, 6% cut in unemployment benefits, reductions of pensions for widowers, widows, and offspring, and sliding-scale cuts in public employee salaries, violate the constitutional principles of equity and proportionality.

Portugal’s government, unshaken in its commitment to propping up speculative financial values at the expense of human life, is scrambling to find alternative ways to gouge the population to make up the resulting EU800 million budget hole. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho hinted that he is considering ignoring the court, and the Constitution itself. He demanded a "political clarification" from the Constitutional Court, brazenly asserting that the court may disagree with any law it wants, but it doesn’t have the right "to say that that legislation is unconstitutional."

The same day as the court decision, the Portuguese Medical Association (OM) opened a new flank of resistance against the government/Troika austerity policies. The OM called a press conference to release a powerful "Memorandum of Demands," in which they elaborate why and how the doctors have put themselves on a war footing to defend the National Health System (NHS), and the Constitutional right of Portuguese citizens to "universal, equitable, almost free, high-quality health care."

The Medical Association charges that the government seeks to starve the NHS, replacing it with a system in which some have access to innovative therapeutic drugs, and others not; in which some have right to specialized health services, and others not; in which some have the right to a doctor, and others not; in which quality is replaced by numbers, hospitals and clinics shut down, doctors are maltreated and replaced by "cheaper manpower," and medicine and health care is ever more dehumanized.

"The defense of the sick and the right of citizens to quality health care is a moral imperative. As the founder of the NHS said, ’only those who give up are defeated.’ And we are not going to give up!", the Medical Association states. After a detailed listing of the government measures which must be revoked and those which must be adopted to restore the excellence of the health care system, the doctors specify eight "concrete measures" that they shall implement, in escalating fashion, should the government not change its program in the short term. Starting immediately, they require that any agreement reached with the government be put in writing, with the OM’s lawyer present. They call upon all members to report any deficiency or inadequacy which endangers patients, which reports will be released to the public. Escalating measures of boycotting of government programs and requirements follow, should the government not yield, concluding with the possibility of a doctors strike.