The Washington Post published an excellent article on January 24, 2018 by Charles Lane. Lane, a respected editorial columnist who asks: How many botched cases would it take to end euthanasia for the mentally ill and cognitively impaired?
In his article, Lane examines several documented cases of euthanasia of incompetent or mentally ill people. The first case Lane refers to is the shocking story of a woman with dementia in the Netherlands who resisted dying by euthanasia:
The patient, referred to in official documents only as “2016-85,” had made an advance directive requesting euthanasia in case of dementia. But the directive was ambiguously worded, and she was no longer able to clarify her wishes by the time she was placed in a nursing home — though her husband did request euthanasia for her.
Despite the lack of a clear expression from the patient, a physician concluded her suffering was unbearable and incurable — though there was no terminal physical illness — and prepared a lethal injection.
To ensure the patient’s compliance, the doctor gave her coffee spiked with a sedative, and, when the woman still recoiled from the needle, asked family members to hold her down. After 15 minutes were spent by the doctor trying to find a vein, the lethal infusion flowed.
Neither voluntary, painless nor dignified, this physician-assisted death was referred to prosecutors by the Dutch regulatory commission — with, so far, unknown consequences.
Lane then focuses on the case of Sarah (Aurelia) a physically healthy 29-year-old woman who is scheduled to die by assisted death for on January 26 in the Netherlands. Lane writes:
Nevertheless, a 29-year-old woman, “Sarah,” whose sole medical complaint is serious, nearly lifelong depression and self-harming behavior, has received permission for euthanasia, to take place Friday, according to the RTL Nieuws, a Dutch media outlet .
She was released from prison in December 2016 after serving 2½ years for arson. She received no therapy while incarcerated and, 12 months later, she persuaded doctors her psychological suffering was unbearable and untreatable.
“It was a long and difficult road before she finally got permission,” RTL Nieuws observed. “And that is why Sarah wants attention for her story. Not for herself, but for others who also find life psychologically too heavy, have no chance of healing and want to die in a dignified way.”
Lane then focuses on the psychiatric euthanasia deaths in Belgium:
Joris Vandenberghe, a psychiatrist at the University of Leuven, is calling for stricter controls.He complained last year that psychiatric patients have died at the hands of doctors who failed to meet criteria set forth in Belgian law: “I’m convinced that in Belgium, people have died where there were still treatment options and where there was still a chance for years and even decades of life.”
Support for the practice is still strong, so strong that the Brothers of Charity, a Roman Catholic organization that operates the largest group of psychiatric hospitals in Belgium, has agreed to acquiesce to euthanasia requests — contrary to Vatican policy.
This decision came after a Belgian court ordered a different Catholic institution to pay damages to the family of a 74-year-old terminally ill woman because administrators required her to leave the facility for euthanasia. Religious conscience was no defense, the court ruled.
Lane concludes his article by stating that the World Psychiatric Association has ducked the issue of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.