Belgium: Experts call for the removal of euthanasia on the grounds of psychological suffering

This week 65 Belgian professors, psychologists and psychiatrists signed the open letter below. It has been translated from the Flemish version published in De Morgen and informed by the translation by Trodo Lemmens.

Open letter: Death as therapy?

Remove euthanasia on the ground of purely psychological suffering from the law

Ariane Bazan (clinical psychologist, Free University of Brussels), Gertrudis Van de Vijver (philosopher, University of Ghent) and Willlem Lemmens (ethicist, University of Antwerp) wrote this open letter on behalf of 65 professors, psychiatrists and psychologists.

8 December 2015

We, representatives of various relevant occupational groups, are alarmed about the increasing trivializing of euthanasia on the ground of psychological suffering only.

For the first time since the law was put into effect in 2002, a decision to allow euthanasia – the case of Dr Marc Van Hoey – has been challenged by the evaluation committee and forwarded to the judiciary. The Australian broadcaster SBS made a documentary about this euthanasia case and the conversations between the patient and the doctor. The Economist also published a poignant video report (24 and Ready to Die) on a 24-year-old young lady from Bruges who was granted euthanasia on grounds of psychological suffering, but ultimately declined its execution.


In our open letter in the Artsenkrant “Doctors’ Newspaper” (September 2015) we noted the legal uncertainty of a doctor approving euthanasia based solely on psychological suffering. In this opinion piece we want to draw attention to its specific problematic character, and in particular the fact that it’s impossible to objectify the hopelessness of psychological suffering.

Link to the full article