LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The head of Portugal's national nurses' association has caused a storm by claiming that some doctors in the country's national health service have connived in assisted suicides for terminally ill patients at public hospitals, even though euthanasia is illegal in Portugal.

Nurses' chief Ana Rita Cavaco tells Portugal's Renascenca radio she has personally witnessed doctors suggesting methods of euthanasia, and that health workers know such things are going on. She didn't elaborate.

The Health Ministry on Monday ordered an urgent inquiry into the allegations.

The national doctors' associations said the claims were "extraordinarily serious" because they suggested that crimes were being covered up.

In the coming months, Parliament is due to debate possibly allowing euthanasia after a public petition earlier this year that demanded assisted suicide be permitted.