A few years ago, I spoke about end-of-life care at a town-hall event; it quickly devolved into an intense debate on assisted suicide. When the time came for audience questions, a self-described “mentally ill” woman took the microphone and declared that she had a right to doctor-prescribed death. More than half the audience burst into applause.
Helping the mentally ill commit suicide was unthinkable not long ago. Today, it is a growing practice.
In the Netherlands, for example, psychiatrists legally kill their patients with the approval of colleagues and the culture. Indeed, the Dutch Journal of Psychiatry has encouraged psychiatrists to euthanize patients with severe mental illnesses (corrected Google translation):
Assisted suicide, as a last resort in psychiatry, legally admissible since 2002, has recently been legitimized in practice. The midwife of Death is now appropriate forpsychiatric patients, representing an emancipation of the psychiatric patient and psychiatry itself.
Netherlanders responded positively to their “emancipation”: The number of euthanasia deaths of the mentally ill rose from fourteen in 2012 to forty-two in 2013. Not coincidentally, a just-released study reports that 34 percent of the country’s general practitioners would consider euthanizing a mentally ill patient.
Belgium is even more enthusiastic than the Netherlands about euthanizing those with psychiatric illnesses. The most well-known case is that of Godelieva De Troyer, who was euthanized by oncologist and palliative medicine professor Wim Distelmans. De Troyer did not have cancer; after a lifelong struggle with depression, she consulted with Distelmans (now a famous euthanasia doctor and advocate) for the sole purpose of being made dead.