The number of mentally ill seeking help to die is rising. Are the rules being twisted?
5 months ago Comments Off on The number of mentally ill seeking help to die is rising. Are the rules being twisted?
SINCE 2002, when the Netherlands legalised assisted dying, its laws have been held up elsewhere as a model. But recent figures from the Dutch Euthanasia Review Committee have given some campaigners pause. It is not the total number of deaths under the law’s provisions that bother them—though it has increased by 76% since 2010, with more than 5,500 reported cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the country last year. Rather, it is 56 individual cases: those who sought, and received, doctor-assisted deaths because of psychiatric disorders. According to Paul Appelbaum of Columbia University’s department of psychiatry, the increase “raises concerns about eliminating people from the population as an alternative to providing them with the medical care and social support they need.”
In a paper published in February Dr Appelbaum analysed regional data published by the Dutch authorities from 2011 to 2014. It seems that one in five patients cited as having a psychiatric disorder and availing of a doctor’s help to die had never been hospitalised for that mental disorder. He fears “mission creep”: that legislation intended to allow the…