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Netherlands: even there euthanasia a taboo for mental patients

At a symposium, organised by the Dutch RtD Society NVVE on end of life decisions and mental diseases, it was recorded that, although people suffering from an incurable mental disease have the same legal right to euthanasia as a person suffering from physical ailments, such psychiatric patients almost never get it. In 2008 two out of the 2,331 reported cases of euthanasia  concerned psychiatric patients. A number of speakers (such as publicist Hans van Dam, lawyer and former NVVE president Eugene Sutorius, and psychiatrist Cornelis van Houwelingen) adressed the issue, saying “The suffering of psychiatric patients can be just as intolerable [for the patient; RJ] as many forms of physical suffering” (ES); “To put it bluntly: cancer will kill you in a matter of years, but schizofrenia is forever”(HvD).

A formal guideline, approved by the Dutch Psychiatry Association states that “… any request for assisted suicide by a psychiatric patient should first be interpreted as a request for life help… with treatment directed towards finding a new life perspective…”, but it also says that such assistance can be “…ethically and medically responsible behaviour..” in extreme cases where the patient is suffering “hopelessly and intolerably” and where there is no otehr “reasonable solution”.

NRC Handelsblad (on its international website) reported on the meeting; you can read the whole article by clicking here.

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