A young woman chose to be euthanized,
and the reason why is awful
By Mary Rezac
Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 15, 2016 / 04:00 pm (CNA) - A Dutch woman in her 20s was euthanized after her mental health condition was declared “insufferable” by a team of doctors and psychiatrists in the Netherlands, according to recently released reports from the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.
Why? The unnamed woman was sexually abused from ages 5 to 15.
As a result, she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Multiple reports say the documents classified her condition as “incurable,” thus legally justifying the woman's death by euthanasia under Dutch law.
Health professionals and advocates in the United States argue that the case is a blow to others who are suffering with similar illnesses, because it sends a message of hopelessness.
“I think it's devastating in the message that it sends,” aid Dr. Greg Bottaro, a clinical psychologist with the CatholicPsych Institute.
“But by putting this out there in this public mindset, it calls into question even more the people who are in despair and it gives them greater reason to believe that it's worth giving up.”
According to reports from The Telegraph, the documents also reveal that this woman was not an exceptional case, as the number of people with mental illnesses who have died by euthanasia has significantly increased since the practice was first legalized in the Netherlands in 2002.
In 2010, only two people were granted euthanasia due to “insufferable” mental conditions, the number rose to 56 in 2015, according to the Telegraph’s report on the documents from the commission.
Dutch psychiatrist Paulan Stärcke, who has carried out euthanasia requests at the country’s End-of-Life clinic, argues that psychiatrists are “too hesitant” about agreeing to euthanasia for patients with psychiatric diseases, and she told The Telegraph that children as young as 12 should be allowed to request to end their lives and be taken seriously.
Dr. Bottaro, however, said that the pro-euthanasia mindset is not only a political agenda, it’s a dangerous threat to public health.
“It’s really a threat to public health itself, because one of the biggest hurdles to get over in treating these illnesses is despair, and a lot of times the first part of treatment is to instill hope that the possibility of healing is there and it's worth working towards, no matter how difficult it might be, that the goal is worth the struggle.”
Dr. Bottaro added that he doesn’t understand how the Dutch medical professionals could reach a diagnosis of “incurable.” While there are complex and severe cases of trauma, he said, there’s never a point where all hope is lost.
“There’s always hope for further treatment,” he said.
Tim Rosales, a spokesperson with the advocacy group Patients Rights Action Fund, said that euthanasia is an extreme and outdated way to handle people’s suffering.
“There are better ways to address the issue of people with serious or terminal illnesses,” he said.
“Assisted suicide is an extreme way that really is outdated, because with modern medicine and modern therapies, doctors are able to care for individuals and their families who are facing those types of illnesses so that they don’t experience pain,” he said.
“I would say that it certainly is not the response, both from a healthcare standpoint or even a compassion standpoint, that society ought to be endorsing.”
Dr. Bottaro said that in light of the news, anyone with a psychological illness needs to know that there is always hope.
“There’s always hope, and the designating of a particular illness as untreatable – it’s a lie. We need to keep pushing forward and keep hoping for healing and working towards it.”
Only a handful of countries have laws allowing for either euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Euthanasia differs from physician-assisted suicide in that anyone – a doctor, a family member, the patient – may administer lethal drugs to the patient. Under physician-assisted suicide, the patient’s doctor prescribes lethal drugs, but legally only the patient can administer them to themselves.
In the United States, physician-assisted suicide is allowed under legislation in four states – California, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – with Montana has legal physician-assisted suicide by court ruling.
The release of the documents from the Netherlands comes at a time when Canada’s Parliament is considering a euthanasia law, which is due for a vote in early June. Medical professionals and advocates from Belgium have been releasing a series of videos urging the country not to legalize it.