Netherlands sees sharp increase in people choosing euthanasia due to ‘mental health problems’


Source: Telegraph

The Netherlands has seen a sharp increase in the number of people choosing to end their own lives due to mental health problems such as trauma caused by sexual abuse. 

Whereas just two people had themselves euthanised in the country in 2010 due to an “insufferable” mental illness, 56 people did so last year, a trend which sparked concern among ethicists .

In one controversial case, a sexual abuse victim in her 20s was allowed to go ahead with the procedure as she was suffering from “incurable” PTSD, according to the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.

Euthanasia is a good death by the wish of the person who dies and no-one elsePaulan Stärcke

But a Dutch psychiatrist who has carried out euthanasia requests at the country’s End-of-Life clinic said this week that psychiatrists are “too hesitant” about agreeing to euthanasia for patients with psychiatric diseases.

Paulan Stärcke, who will present her findings at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam Thursday, told The Telegraph that even children as young as 12 who ask to end their lives should be taken seriously.

“There’s a giant misunderstanding,” she said, “euthanasia is a good death by the wish of the person who dies and no-one else.

“It is an execution of the wish of a patient.”

Her speech, entitled “Condemned to live with unbearable psychiatric suffering, or allowed to die?” comes at a time of heated debate on euthanasia.

Other speakers at the conference will discuss euthanasia worldwide for terminally ill children, and people who are “tired of life”.

In 2002, euthanasia was legalised in the Netherlands for those with “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement”. There is a provision for children from 12  to 18 years.

Euthanasia cases rose 75% in the past five years, from 3,136 in 2010 to 5,516 last year. Cases for psychiatric reasons grew from just two people (0.1% of the total) in 2010 to 56 people last year (1%). Dementia cases rose from 25 in 2010 (0.8%) to 109 cases last year (2%).

These numbers are small in a population of 16.8 million, but experts worry how “unbearable suffering” can be measured in patients with dementia or psychiatric illnesses.

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