Saturday, January 27, 2018

Psychiatrists comment on euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in the Netherlands

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

It is very upsetting to write about the assisted death for psychiatric reasons of Aurelia Brouwers, the 29-year-old physically healthy Dutch woman. Aurelia died, as scheduled, on January 26. 

I did not know Aurelia, personally, but I communicated with her and I urged her to live. I told her that I cared about her.
Aurelia made her assisted death a campaign to promote euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

Arjen ten Cate and Ingrid Willems published an interesting article in examining the attitudes of psychiatrists towards psychiatric euthanasia. ten Cate and Willems interviewed four psychiatrists.

Frank Koerselman, an emeritas professor of psychiatry, opposes euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. Koerselman states: (google translated)
The... Netherlands is completely wrong when it comes to euthanasia. He calls it a slippery slope. "Only when euthanasia became possible in physical medicine did we start developing good palliative care. That is the reverse order? Now the same thing happens in psychiatry. There is no policy for chronic patients, but we do allow euthanasia. '' 
Koerselman is convinced that psychiatric patients can not make a sober, intellectual decision whether or not to live. "There are always emotions like fear, shame or anger. It is an illusion with the syndrome to think that such a decision is well-considered.''
Koerselman, who stated that he is definitely not religious, stated:
psychiatrists can not judge this. For even psychiatrists are not able to look into the patient's head in such a way that he or she can judge whether a death wish is justified. "We overestimate ourselves as a professional group."
Menno Oosterhoff, who knew Aurelia personally and who lives with compulsive disorder, is a psychiatrist who supports euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. The article states (google translated):
it is not up to the masses, or a professional group to give an opinion on one specific patient. ,, Only the patient himself, his doctor and psychiatrist can make a good estimate.
According to Oosterhoff there are too many prejudices about people with psychological problems who have a death wish. "That they have a lack of willpower is such a preconception. People's prejudices tend to be more difficult when it comes to an individual person. If you know Aurelia's story yourself. She is terminal because her soul is failing. There are too many theoretical objections to euthanasia."
Jim van Os is a professor of psychiatry who does not oppose euthanasia but is concerned that it may become too common:
There are examples of patients with a very strong death wish, who asked for euthanasia and did not get it and now a happy one life, because they have found the love of their lives, for example.
Van Os is worried about the growing demand for euthanasia in psychiatry. He does not want to go into the specific case 'Aurelia'. "But in a general sense you may wonder if we have done enough to help these people." ... How is it that someone wants to die? Should we have been unable to do something at an earlier stage? "This professor also notes that the GGZ in the Netherlands is under pressure due to cutbacks. Dangerous, he says. GGZ Nederland does not want to accept this criticism.
Psychiatrist Bram Baker, who had a friend who died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, set up a signature campaign opposing euthanasia for psychiatric suffering. According to the article:
He is critical: "Legally, it is allowed. But a judgment about psychic, unbearable suffering is always subjective. You can not take a position as a psychiatrist, that is very scary. And I think euthanasia is going too far. Is there no other option?
Several excellent articles have been published opposing euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

3 comments: said...

Psychiatrists lack or ignore the spiritual perspective of humans. Euthanasia for psychiatric cases is going too far. There are other options.

gadfly said...

Yes, but...

I engaged with Aurelia about a week before she died. This was online in fb somewhere. She was adamant about wanting to die. Yet, this being a personal decision, she was also equally determined that her decision be public, her demands be public, her views be public and that every member of the public approve and cheer her on. Naysayers need not apply.

Her friends were equally vocal about cheering her on before death and 'mourning' after her death. The rhetoric was one sided and pointed in one direction only. The system has been set up very cynically, and very professionally in a slick way, to ensure that any resistance is 'religious' ie: can be ignored.

Yet those who are in favour of euthanasia are peculiar. If you confront them, no one - and I have yet to find an exception - no one will ever admit to killing a suffering person. Odd, that...

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