Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
BBC News has reported that a Belgium man, known as Sébastien, is seeking euthanasia based on psychological suffering in order to end his struggle with his sexual attractions.
The BBC article by Jonathon Blake explains that in Belgium, euthanasia for psychological suffering requires three doctors to approve the act (one of the doctors should be a psychiatrist), The law says that they must be suffering incurable, constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering. The article states:
Sébastien has undergone 17 years of therapy, counselling and medication and believes he has no other option.
He claims to be attracted to young men and adolescent boys and is scarred from a difficult childhood; his mother was ill and there was a strict Catholic ethos.
"My whole life has led me to this, really,"
"I have always thought about death. Looking back on my earliest memories, it's always been in my thoughts. It's a permanent suffering, like being a prisoner in my own body,"
"A constant sense of shame, feeling tired, being attracted to people you shouldn't be attracted to - as though everything were the opposite of what I would have wanted."
The article examines differing views on psychiatric euthanasia. Psychiatrist Caroline Depuydt, who works at a psychiatric hospital in Brussels, encourages her patients to try further treatment.
We always have something that could work. Time, medication, psychotherapy - something that we must try and keep going with that. And the psychiatrist must give hope to the patient that it's never finished,
Gilles Genicot, a lecturer in medical law at the University of Liege, and a member of the euthanasia review committee says that you can never rule out the option of euthanasia.
Sébastien's case does not fulfil the legal criteria for euthanasia.
It's more likely he has psychological problems relating to his sexuality. I cannot find a trace of actual psychic illness here.
But what you cannot do is purely rule out the option of euthanasia for such patients.
They can fall within the scope of the law once every reasonable treatment has been tried unsuccessfully and three doctors come to the conclusion that no other option remains.
Sébastien's request for euthanasia has been accepted initially, he now faces further assessments to determine whether his case fits within the law.
When asked whether he would change his mind, Sébastien states:
"If someone could give me some kind of miracle cure, why not? But for now, I really don't believe it any more. And I'm too exhausted also, whatever may be out there."
Although he is calm - almost matter of fact - about wanting to end his life deliberately, he acknowledges the effect this will have on the people around him.
"The hardest thing now is telling my family. If I get a yes, that's what's going to be most delicate."
Belgian Psychiatrist, Lieve Thienpont, published a study, last year, on the first 100 requests she received for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. The data states:
- 77 euthanasia requests were made by woman, 23 were men,
- of the 48 approved requests, 35 died by euthanasia,
- 1 died by palliative sedation (sedation with withdrawal of water),
- the average age was 47,
- 58 were depressed, 50 had a personality disorder,
- 12 were autistic, 13 had post traumatic stress disorder, 11 had anxiety disorder, 10 had an eating disorder, etc.