Saturday 23 January 2021

More psychiatric patients want euthanasia but psychiatrists are wary


Psychiatric patients who have expressed a wish to die have to wait over a year to begin the process of applying for euthanasia because not enough psychiatrists can be found to do the assessment, Trouw reported on Thursday.

Some 100 psychiatric patients are on the waiting list of the Euthanasia Expertise Centre after an initial assessment showed their applications may succeed

The centre currently employs seven psychiatrists but there is work for at least 20, psychiatrist Gerty Casteelen said. She said the situation was ‘dramatic’ for the patients in question.

Fewer psychiatrists outside the centre are willing to cooperate with a psychiatric patient’s wish to die. Elnathan Prinsen, chairman of the Dutch psychiatric association NVvP told the paper psychiatrists often cannot be sure the death wish is a result of mental illness, or if everything possible has been done to alleviate suffering.

At the same time more psychiatric patients are requesting an assisted death, with some 800 registered at the centre this year, compared to 692 the year before.

Only a relatively small number of psychiatric patients are actually granted euthanasia – 67 last year in total.

Euthanasia was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002 for those over 12 experiencing ‘hopeless and unbearable suffering’, who want to die and have come to the conclusion independently. Two doctors have to agree that the conditions have been met.

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