Peter Singer promotes euthanasia for mental illness

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Long time euthanasia promoter, Peter Singer, has written a commentary on the expansion of euthanasia to include people with mental illness alone who have made an advanced request for euthanasia. His commentary seems factual and dispassionate but, in fact, he supports more death by euthanasia.

In his article “Extending the Right to Die,” published by Project Syndicate, Singer first reports on the expansions of euthanasia world-wide. Singer then focuses on Canada’s Bill C-7, which expanded euthanasia, known as MaiD [Medical Aid in Dying], to people who are not terminally ill and to people with mental illness solely. The latter is “held” for 24 months as Canada devises protocols for killing. 

Singer first comments on the issue of euthanasia by advanced request, which the Dutch Supreme Court recently approved. He states:

The issue of allowing advance requests for assistance in dying will become more pressing as populations age and more people develop dementia. Last year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that doctors cannot be prosecuted for carrying out euthanasia on patients who have given written consent, but subsequently lost the capacity to consent.

Singer accurately points out how an aging population creates more pressure on a nation. But he ignores the incredible dangers when consent is not required at the time of death. 

Allowing euthanasia without consent undermines the original sales pitch for euthanasia, that being “choice” and “consent.” When consent is not required who chooses?

Singer then comments on the issue of euthanasia for mental illness alone. Singer states:

There can be little doubt that some mentally ill people are not helped by treatment, and do suffer greatly. It is hard to see why, if suffering from an incurable but non-terminal physical illness suffices for assistance in dying, suffering that is as bad or worse from incurable mental illness should not also be sufficient. Moreover, for people who are suffering from untreatable depression or other mental illnesses that do not respond to treatment, merely being judged eligible for euthanasia can in itself make life more bearable.

Singer acknowledges that psychiatric assessments may not determine if the mental illness is incurable, but then suggests that this doesn’t matter because only the patient can determine how unbearable the suffering is.

Euthanasia promoters, such as Singer ignore the reality that there is no proof that certain psychiatric conditions are untreatable and secondly, they ignore the fact that a symptom of some psychiatric conditions is suicidal ideation.

It’s saying we kill people with mental illnesses because they want to die, but they want to die because they need treatment. Meanwhile Bill C-7 did not require that the person try effective treatments.

We need a caring society, not a killing society.

Editor’s  note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.