Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The 2015 Netherlands euthanasia report that was recently released states that there were 5,561 reported euthanasia deaths in 2015, up from 5,306 in 2014. In addition, there were 109 reported euthanasia deaths for dementia, up from 81 in 2014, and there were 56 reported euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons, up from 41 in 2014.
In 2010 there were two reported cases of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in the Netherlands and in 2015 there were 56 reported cases.
Shockingly, a woman who died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons was in her 20’s and had been sexually abused.
The woman, in her twenties, was given a lethal injection after doctors and psychiatrists decided that her post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions were incurable.
It went ahead despite improvements in the woman’s psychological condition after ‘intensive therapy’ two years ago, and even though doctors in the Netherlands accept that a demand for death from a psychiatric patient may be no more than a cry for help.
The woman, who has not been named, began to suffer from mental disorders 15 years ago following sexual abuse, according to the papers released by the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.
The Daily Mail’s Steve Doughty wrote
It comes at a time of continued controversy over assisted dying in Britain. A steady flow of people from this country travel to die legally at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, and judges and the courts appear to be leaning in favour of making it legal to help someone to die.
Doughty reported that the Netherlands government released information about the case to prove that the case fulfilled the requirements of the law. The Daily Mail reported, according to the papers released by the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.
the woman had post-traumatic stress disorder that was resistant to treatment. Her condition included severe anorexia, chronic depression and suicidal mood swings, tendencies to self-harm, hallucinations, obsessions and compulsions.
She also had physical difficulties and was almost entirely bedridden. Her psychiatrist said ‘there was no prospect or hope for her. The patient experienced her suffering as unbearable’.
However, the papers also disclosed that two years before her death the woman’s doctors called for a second opinion, and on the advice of the new doctors she had an intensive course of trauma therapy. ‘This treatment was temporarily partially successful,’ the documents said.
The patient, they said, was ‘totally competent’ and there was ‘no major depression or other mood disorder which affected her thinking’. A final GP’s report approved the ‘termination of life’ order and the woman was killed by an injection of lethal drugs, the report said.
A recent study examined 66 cases of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons between 2011 and 2014 in the Netherlands.
One of the cases was a healthy woman who decided that she could not live without her husband. After her husband died, she wanted to die by euthanasia. She was lethally injected, even though one of the consultants reported that she:
“did not feel depressed at all. She ate, drank and slept well. She followed the news and undertook activities.”
Lead researcher, Dr. Scott Kim was reported by CTV news as stating:
“There is no evidence base to operationalize ‘unbearable suffering,’ there are no prospective studies of decision-making capacity in persons seeking EAS for psychiatric reasons, and the prognosis of patients labeled as ‘treatment-resistant depression’ varies considerably, depending on the population and the kind of treatments they receive.”
Canada’s Bill C-14, that is being debated in parliament, would legalize euthanasia for physical and psychological suffering. The concept of euthanasia should be disturbing, but the concept of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons should be considered unthinkable.
Editor’s note. This appeared on the webpage of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.