Sunday, February 15, 2015

Supreme Court decision allows assisted death for depressed people.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article in the National Post has accurately reported that the Supreme Court of Canada assisted suicide decision has opened the door to people with depression or psychiatric conditions to die an "assisted death." The Supreme Court decision stated that people who live with physical or psychological suffering (undefined term) could die an assisted death.

The Canadian government can pass a new assisted suicide law, a law that would protect people who live with depression and psychiatric conditions.


Dr Padraic Carr
The National Post article interviews Dr Padraic Carr, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta and the president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. Carr believes that depression or psychiatric conditions affect the insight and judgement of these people.

“They can affect the ability to appreciate the situation and manipulate information rationally,”
But Udo Schukelenk, a philosophy professor at Queens University, and a long time promoter of euthanasia, believes that depression and psychiatric conditions do not make people incapable of making life and death decisions. The article states that:
Schuklenk said the paralyzing distress of treatment-resistant depression should be given as equal weight as suffering cause by a physical illness. 
Depression itself is not terminal. “A patient suffering from treatment-resistant major depressive disorder can live — however miserably — to old age,” he says.
Dr Sidney Kennedy
Dr Sidney Kennedy, who is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and an international leader in mood and anxiety orders disagrees with Schuklenk.
...the Queen’s professor is misguided. 
...severe depression is not like late-stage pancreatic cancer, for which no known treatments available today will ultimately stop the “downward spiral to death.” 
“Our field [of psychiatry] is moving forward, and I would not want to be in the position of saying, ‘if we hadn’t assisted death and dying in this person five years ago, they could have had a particular treatment that we now see works,”
In the Netherlands and Belgium, the acceptance of euthanasia for depression and psychiatric conditions has led to a significant number of controversial deaths.

In the Netherlands, among other cases, a woman with Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), a woman who didn't want to live in a nursing home and a healthy recently retired man who was depressed and lonely died by euthanasia based on psychological suffering. In 2013, euthanasia for psychiatric conditions tripled and 97 people died by euthanasia for dementia.

In Belgium, among other cases, a depressed woman after a long-term relationship brake-up, a woman with anorexia nervosa after being sexually exploited by her psychiatrist, and a botched sex-change operation victim died by euthanasia based on psychological suffering. 

Recently, in Belgium, a murder-rapist was approved for euthanasia based on psychological suffering. His death was stopped after the doctor, who was to lethally inject the man, changed his mind (it was too close to capital punishment), and the Belgian government agreed to provide the man with psychiatric treatment.

The Canadian government must protect people with depression and psychiatric conditions and not abandon them to euthanasia.

2 comments:

Emmy Grace said...

I have treatment resistant depression and a TBI. I have had therapy, ect, I take meds and still I am depressed. When struggling to survive it does NOT help to have other people agreeing with your depression that you are worthless and better off dead! I wish these death pushers and supporters would just stop! They have caused me more pain, confusion and feelings of hopelessness than depression ever has and I have lived and struggled with depression for over 20 years!

Anonymous said...

Emmy, first, I'm very sorry you are suffering. A (very) long-time sufferer of treatment resistant depression myself (25+ years), I could not be more sincere in that feeling. Nevertheless, much as with access to abortion, the individual facing end of life decisions, I think, should be the ultimate judge of whether a particular course is appropriate or not--not other human beings whose bodies--lives--are not involved. If someone suffering chronic depression despite professionals' interventions decides she or he wants to continue the battle of life, so be it. I wish such brave humans the best. But their decisions shouldn't set policy that determines how others of us MUST live and die. Canada's (and certain European nations') recent decision is among the most valuable I've ever come upon in that it allows individuals freedom to determine our own futures.

Ultimately, the way we die is profoundly personal. It's understandable, therefore, that in an ideologically heterogeneous culture, some of us would be deeply offended by others' decisions. But that's a cost of the freedom to decide. While I advocate sensitivity and mutual respect, at least in this case these ought not trump a suffering adult's freedom to escape a life of chronic pain.