By Sandra Kucharski, MS RN
In 2002, euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands for those experiencing “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement”. There is also a provision in the law for children from 12 to 18 years.
Recently, the Dutch Euthanasia Commission reported that a Dutch woman in her twenties was euthanized after a team of doctors and psychiatrists in the Netherlands declared her mental health condition “insufferable.” She had been sexually abused from 5-15 years of age and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). This young woman was not an isolated case. In the Netherlands, cases for psychiatric reasons grew from just two people in 2010 to 56 people in 2015. Dementia cases rose from 25 in 2010 to 109 cases last year.
When society offers euthanasia or physician assisted suicide to the mentally ill, it sends a message of hopelessness and gives those who are already suffering from despair a sanctioned reason to believe it is acceptable to give up.
For many years, we have known in our country that care for the mentally ill needs serious improvement. Let us work now to improve care for the mentally ill before it is too late. Euthanasia should never be a socially approved substitute for professional psychiatric care. Every life is worth living.
N.B. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition reports on a recent study of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in the Netherlands that emphasizes many of these troubling concerns.