• The San Juan Daily Star

Bar Assn. issues proposed amendments to Civil Code

Former judge Migdalia Fraticelli Torres chairs the Puerto Rico Bar Association’s Civil Law Commission.

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Bar Association has issued a 174-page report containing proposed amendments to the Civil Code, the body of laws that regulate private matters such as divorce, inheritance and contracts.

The proposed amendments, which come a year after the new Civil Code went into effect and replaced the version from the 1930s, include proposals such as legalizing euthanasia, lowering the legal age and changes in consumer protections.

According to Microjuris, the report with the amendments was prepared through the Bar Association’s Civil Law Commission, chaired by former judge Migdalia Fraticelli Torres.

In the report, the commission proposes to legalize euthanasia – the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma – arguing that it has been accepted in parts of the United States and in numerous countries around the world.

“Those proposing a change in current policy about this delicate topic are using as a basis the individual freedom that is characteristic and an essential right of natural persons,” the report reads.

Patients whose circumstances are as previously described should be able to choose between staying in a state of constant suffering without possibility of improvement or ending such a state.

“Already the experience in other countries is vast and can be a directive for the reconsideration of our prohibitive legislation,” the report states.

Euthanasia is already allowed in the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2002), Luxembourg (2008), Canada (2016), New Zealand (2020) and Spain (2021).

Another issue that has generated controversy in the past and that is raised in the report is lowering the legal age to 18 from 21.

“In more than 140 countries in the world the age that sets the change to adulthood , with full capacity to act, is 18 years old. Few set it at 19, 20 or 21 years old. Puerto Rico is only a member of the group of about twenty countries in which the majority is over 18 years old,” the report reads. The amendments also provide clarifications as to when a parent no longer has the obligation to provide child support. Currently, the obligation ends when the child turns 21 but can be extended to the age of 25 if the individual is in school.

The proposals also include reintroducing the concept of equity, well known in the common law and excluded in the latest version of the Civil Code, which was prepared by a legislative committee headed by former Rep. María Milagros Charbonier.

The Bar Association is also suggesting giving married couples the option of using the women’s surname first for the children instead of the male’s surname.

“It constitutes discrimination against women in heterosexual couples and poses other difficulties in cases of people of the same sex,” it said.

The proposed amendment, in article 83, would say, in part, “the name of a person includes the proper or individual name along with the first surname of her parents, in the order that both choose at the time of the birth registration.”

The amendments also include a clarification on how individuals can change their sex in official documents at the Demographic Registry.

Other amendments allow the unmarried couple that generates common patrimony to have the same treatment under the law as the married couple in a community property regime or under any other regime for purposes of dividing up property in the event of a breakup.

In other articles, such as those related to up to what age the obligation to support children extends, it is explained in the report that lawyers who are engaged in certain practices were consulted when evaluating changes.

Numerous amendments are also proposed on the subject of contracts, especially those related to adhesion contracts, where there is language contrary to leonine clauses.

Likewise, various amendments are proposed to article 1287, on seller’s obligations, which seek to increase consumer protections, including requiring a surety for the marketing of certain products.

“Jurists concerned about these issues consider that the remedies must conform to the most relevant and effective practices in the industry,” the report reads.

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