Euthanasia carried out for 1 in 3 for psychological suffering

Summary

A study of six Belgian doctors and scientists published in the British Medical Journal shows that euthanasia was carried out for 35 out of 100 patients who requested it on the basis of unbearable psychological suffering

BMJ study

Of 100 patients who filed a demand for euthanasia on the basis of unbearable psychological suffering between October 2007 and 2011, 35 died after euthanasia was carried out. That was shown by a study of six Belgian doctors and scientists, published in the British Medical Journal. It’s the first time such a study has been published.

Euthanasia because of unbearable psychological suffering is only allowed under very strict conditions in Belgium. It can only be carried out if there is no likelihood of sustainable improvement and no effective therapy available.

Ninety of the 100 patients in the study had previously been diagnosed with more than one psychiatric disorder. About half suffered from depression and/or personality disorders, and 12 patients were diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome after an additional examination.

The demands of 48 of the 100 patients were accepted and in 35 cases effectively carried out. Eight people explicitly indicated that the approval was psychologically reassuring enough to postpone the euthanasia. Two patients killed themselves, two cancelled under pressure from family and one was taken to a penitentiary institution.

Of the other 52 patients, 38 cancelled their request before the end of the procedure. For eight of them, the procedure is continuing. Four patients killed themselves, one died after palliative sedation and one died from their disorder.