Europe’s morality crisis: Euthanizing the mentally ill

by Charles Lane, Washington Post, 19 October 2016

Mr Lane is an editorial writer and columnist for the Washington Post. He takes note of the release of official Belgian euthanasia statistics for 2014-15 which disclose that “124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a ‘mental and behavioral disorder'”.

The figure represents 3.1 percent of all 2014-2015 euthanasia cases — and a remarkable 20.8 percent of the (also remarkable) 594 non-terminalpatients to whom Belgian doctors administered lethal injections in that period.  

What’s a bit different about this Belgian report, however, is that it’s the first to appear since journalists and psychiatric professionals, inside Belgium and outside, began to take notice of what’s going on — and to raise questions about it.

Increasingly questioned at home, Belgian psychiatrists’ participation in the euthanasia of the mentally ill has also caught the attention of their international colleagues, many of whom remain committed to the physician’s primary role as a healer — and fear the corrupting potential of any deviation from that, even in the name of “patient autonomy.”

Euthanasia of people with autism, depression, schizophrenia and dementia in the Low Countries represents a global moral crisis for psychiatry, and all of medicine, that can no longer be ignored.

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