Wednesday 08 December 2021

Psychiatric patients ‘suffering’ from long waiting times for euthanasia

Photo: DutchNews.nl

Psychiatric patients are suffering needlessly and taking their own lives because of the long waiting times to be assessed for euthanasia.

Specialist clinic Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, formerly known as the Levenseindekliniek, said people with psychiatric illnesses had to wait for two years on average to have their request to die assessed.

Political party GroenLinks has called for the centre to be given €750,000 in funding to help it cut its waiting list.

‘It’s not right that if people are suffering unbearably and have no prospect of improvement have to hang on for two years before they can proceed with euthanasia,’ said MP Corinne Ellemeet.

Spokesman Ronald Stael said the facility in The Hague had received 3,300 requests for euthanasia since the start of this year, up from 2,900 in 2020. The clinic was set up to cater for patients whose family doctors refuse to handle their request to die.

‘We don’t have enough psychiatrists to process all these requests,’ he said. ‘The waiting time for a psychiatrist to at the expertise centre to consider a euthanasia request has increased to two years.’

Under Dutch law euthanasia can only be granted at the request of the patient, if a physician agrees that they are suffering intolerably with no prospect of relief. Around two-thirds of the 7,000 people who die via euthanasia each year are cancer patients.

Doctors are not obliged to consider a request for euthanasia. Expertisecentrum Euthanasie said around a quarter of its referrals were from people with psychiatric illnesses. In nine out of 10 cases the patient changes their mind and accepts further treatment or withdraws their request altogether,

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