Dutch Citizens Can Now Choose Euthanasia For Mental Health Issues, Right-To-Die Laws Expanded

The Dutch have expanded “right-to-die” laws to allow its citizens with mental illnesses to opt for doctor-assisted suicide. Previously, only Dutch people with terminal illnesses could utilize doctors for euthanasia. However, a recent case in which a young woman in her 20s was allowed to die after battling a series of mental health issues associated with childhood sexual trauma changed everything. The case expanded the right to die by euthanasia to citizens suffering from incurable mental health issues.

The Daily Mail reports that Dutch people with incurable mental illness are now being given the right to die by euthanasia. Holland is known for its lax right-to-die laws with an increasing number of citizens choosing to utilize the doctor-assisted services. Statistics show that 5,516 people chose euthanasia last year, including a number of children suffering from terminal illnesses. However, a series of recent cases in which patients with mental, not terminal, illnesses were allowed to choose euthanasia instead of continued mental health treatments is changing right-to-die mandates in the country.

It was revealed that one such approved euthanasia case was regarding a young woman who suffered sexual abuse as a child. The woman, in her 20s, suffered a series of mental illnesses including anorexia, suicidal tendencies, depression, self-harm, and a host of other problems. She claimed that she would rather die than go on living with her condition and was granted permission to utilize doctor-assisted suicide.

The woman is just one of a growing number of cases in which Dutch people are being allowed the right to die for mental illnesses. In fact, the first doctor-assisted euthanasia case occurred in 2010 with two people opting to end their lives with the help of a doctor due to a mental illness. Those numbers have steadily increased with 56 mental health patients choosing euthanasia in 2015.

One such mental health patient choosing euthanasia is outlined by the Daily Mail. A 45-year-old mother, Jackie, reveals that she has suffered mental health issues for the majority of her life following childhood trauma. As a result, Jackie says she can no longer work, has little socialization, and is mostly bed-ridden due to her mental state. The mother now simply wants to die and has been placed on the waiting list for an appointment at a local end-of-life clinic.

Though doctors have been allowed to offer end-of-life services to mental health patients since at least 2010, the procedures are now becoming more accessible as the precedent has been set for individuals with mental illness deemed “incurable.” If psychiatrists are unable to identify a treatment for a patient’s mental illness, euthanasia is now an option.

Once a patient decides they want to die, an appointment must be scheduled with an end-of-life clinic or doctor. The doctor then determines if the person has “unbearable” suffering, either mental or physical. If the condition is deemed unbearable with no hope for improvement, the case will then be sent to an ethics committee to determine if end-of-life euthanasia services should be provided. If approved, the patient will then be sent to a doctor that specializes in end-of-life services and allowed to die at the hands of the doctor.

The demand for euthanasia services is continuing to increase with some clinic’s offering “mobile services” to people across Holland who want to die in their own home. In fact, Amsterdam’s End Of Life clinic, which is somewhat specialized in helping mental health patients obtain rights to euthanasia, says that a third of their patients are requesting services due to mental health. The clinic director Steven Pleiter says that many of the patients have been denied right-to-die services at other clinics as their personal doctor refuses to consider euthanasia for mental health issues.

“If someone has cancer and the prognosis is poor, doctors will shorten their suffering by euthanasia. But if you cannot see what a patient is dying of, or know when they will die — it could be many years ahead if the person is mentally ill — then the doctors find it more difficult to decide whether to end a life.”

Therefore, Pleiter says they are trying to “fill the gap.” He notes that many mental health patients are living a life that is unbearable and that they deserve the dignity to die in peace. He recalled one case in which a woman was so consumed with a fear of germs that she spent her whole life cleaning, never stopping. He says her fears controlled her and she was unable to lead a normal life. After eight hours of interviews, the clinic doctors determined she should have the right to euthanasia and she was allowed to die at her home at the hands of a clinic doctor.

What do you think about Holland’s increase in mental health patients choosing euthanasia? Do you think more countries should expand their right-to-die laws or should doctor-assisted suicide be illegal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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