Psychiatric Euthanasia: Should we consider suicide as a symptom or a treatment option for mental illness?

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Psychiatric Euthanasia is a controversial topic that has risen in popularity in recent years, throughout international media, but many, including myself prior to taking bioethics, do not fully understand what it really is. Euthanasia itself is a treatment process many may know from vet’s offices, but in Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, Columbia, and parts of the United States, it legal for the termination of human life.(Science Direct). For many of these places, euthanasia is only legal for treatment regarding terminal illnesses, for example: Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and certain cancers. Mental Health awareness has exploded recently, and many are now arguing that euthanasia should be legalized for mental illness, but the current debate is: How do we know if suicide is a symptom or treatment option? Click on the buttons down below to explore the different bioethical principles and how they apply to this debate!

 


 Psychiatric Euthanasia is legal in Belgium and the Netherlands and because of the impacts that the loss of human life can have, there are certain regulations that are put into place in order to sustain the most ethical choices. These regulations include The Life End Information Forum(LEIF) and the 2002 Termination on Life on Request Act in the Netherlands. Although these countries legalize euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, most countries do not legalize euthanasia for any reason. The video linked below is the story of Adam Maier-Clayton, a man who advocated for legalization of euthanasia for mental illness after his own struggle with a mental condition that made him feel intense pain with any movement. Watch this video and take a look at some of the questions below!

  • One of Adams friends, Catrina, brought up the fact that many people in society often overlook mental illness because it lacks physical representation, what do you think can be done to help de-stigmatize mental health?
  • Adam tried many different forms of treatment and none of it worked. He also knew that his condition could not be cured. Due to this, do you think that it is ethical to expand limits of C-14 to people with psychiatric disorders?
  • Overall, what parts of psychiatric euthanasia are ethical and which are not?

Solutions

After analyzing all of the principles of bioethics and all of the research on euthanasia, I have come to the conclusion that psychiatric euthanasia is an ethical form of treatment. By legalizing euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, we are opening up more forms of treatment that can provide a peaceful way of passing, surronded by loved ones, rather than the action of commiting suicide all alone. Although I feel that it is an ethical decision, I do feel that in order to make sure that every patient is competent, boundaries likes those in Belgium should be established: “1) the ability to make and communicate personal choices; 2) the ability to comprehend the information provided; 3) the ability to apply this information to one’s own context and situation; and 4) the ability to reason and deliberate…“1) the patient’s mental competence, as this might be affected by a psychiatric disorder; 2) the requirement for the psychiatric disorder to be incurable, as some (symptoms of) psychiatric disorders tend to change over time; 3) the requirement for the well-considered nature of the request, as a death wish may be a symptom of a psychiatric disorder; 4) the constant and unbearable nature of the psychological suffering, given that a clear definition and an effective assessment instrument are still lacking; and 5) the requirement of the non-alleviability of the psychological suffering(Science Direct)”. With these rules, patients can explore other treatment options and be able to make fully informed decisions about their life. This maximizes the ethical outcomes and minimizing the possible non-ethical results. I hope that you are able to draw your own conclusions from this information, and I hope you learned more about bioethics!

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5 Comments

5 comments

  1. I had never thought about euthanasia as an option for people besides those with physical ailments, but after reading through the presentation I have a lot of new information and perspective on the topic. I think that as long as there are lots of regulations in place to make sure people carrying through with this option are treated well, and all other solutions are explored, then this is a valuable treatment for people. I think there is a lot of fear around death in American, and other, societies, and people fail to acknowledge that sometimes it can be the more desirable or humane option for someone. This is definitely something I would like to learn about more! 

  2. This was an excellent project! I had honestly never thought about psychiatric euthanasia in the way you explained it. The video you included was absolutely heart breaking. I think that I agree with you, if euthanasia for terminal physical illness is ethical and legal it should be for psychiatric illness as well. People with psychiatric illnesses do have terminal illnesses and are in unbearable pain. The video brought up a really good point about how by saying that those with psychiatric illnesses don’t qualify for euthanasia we are saying that your pain is not as great as someone with physical illnesses. I was wondering where you think the line lies in choosing euthanasia for psychiatric illnesses. Do you think that schizophrenia, psychosis and bipolar disorder would be included? If medication is a treatment option for someone’s mental illness, but they are refusing to take it, should they still be allowed to choose euthanasia?

  3. Hey Mary Bray, I think you did an absolutely fantastic job exhibiting the complexities of psychiatric euthanasia. It’s such a byzantine problem that I can see how one could side one way or another. I think that I ultimately arrived at the same conclusion as you did: “By legalizing euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, we are opening up more forms of treatment that can provide a peaceful way of passing, surrounded by loved ones, rather than the action of committing suicide all alone.” I also agree that there must be regulations set in place to ensure that every patient understands their decision and option; I feel it is not any person’s right to dictate whether someone lives or dies. Really nice job with your project.

  4. This project is amazing! Your in-depth analysis of the Bioethical principles, coupled with your expert analysis on your opinion was great. While I disagree with your opinion/outcome, you provided many sources and examples to prove your point. I especially liked your presentation on the principle of Justice, where you invoked the theories of bioethics as well. Amazing job, really.

  5. MB,
    Wow, I am blown away by your project. This topic is particularly difficult to “solve.” As it isn’t a singular person’s job to determine whether someone lives or not. Not only that but the way you pose everything is so clear as well as the conscience of the topic. Your analysis is also super in-depth which allowed me to consider and learn more about your topic. Such a good job!!

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