Belgian Psychiatric euthanasia request based on sexual attraction

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.

Last year, there were 2021 reported euthanasia deaths in Belgium. Recent studies indicate that more than 40% of the euthanasia deaths are not reported.

Netherlands euthanasia clinic approves lethal injection for a woman who was sexually abused as a child

Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

On May 14, the Daily Mail reported that a 45 year old woman, known as "Jackie," was approved for euthanasia based on psychiatric issues related to sexually abuse.

"Jackie" is the most recent case in a trend of increasing numbers of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands combined with increasing numbers of euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons.

The 2015 Netherlands euthanasia report stated that there were 5561 reported euthanasia deaths in 2015, up from 5306 in 2014, there were 109 reported euthanasia deaths for dementia, up from 81 in 2014, and there were 56 reported euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons, up from 41 in 2014.

News about this recent case comes after the shocking case of a physically healthy woman, in her 20's, died by euthanasia in the Netherlands for psychiatric reasons related to being sexually abused. 

According to the Daily Mail article by Sue Reid, in the most recent case, Jackie's sister stated:

This follows a traumatic childhood experience when she was sexually abused at five years old and developed depression as a result.

The Daily Mail reported that the euthanasia clinic received 1234 requests and was responsible for 36 of the 56 psychiatric euthanasia deaths in 2015.

Earlier this year, a study examining 66 cases of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons uncovered several significant concerns. The report indicated that women represented 70% of the psychiatric deaths. The researchers noted that controversial cases included:

a woman in her 70s without health problems had decided, with her husband, that they would not live without each other. After her husband died, she lived a life described as a "living hell" that was "meaningless." 
A consultant reported that this woman "did not feel depressed at all. She ate, drank and slept well. She followed the news and undertook activities."

The "End of Life" euthanasia clinic opened March 2012 with mobile euthanasia units in order to offer death to people who were either turned down by their doctor, or they people who lack mobility, sucha as people with disabilities and the frail elderly.

According to the Daily Mail article the first case of psychiatric euthanasia was also controversial:

After the clinic opened in 2012, its first psychiatric patient was a 54-year-old woman who had mysophobia (a pathological fear of germs or dirt). She, like other End Of Life patients, was killed at home after first being injected with a strong sedative and then a muscle relaxant which stops the heart. 
Gerty Casteelen, one of the clinic's psychiatrists, conducted eight hours of interviews with her before deciding that she really wished to die. 'It was a long process', the medic recalls. 'I came to understand that her fears completely controlled her life. 
'All she could do all day was clean. It was impossible for her to maintain a relationship. Her whole development had stalled.'

Other psychiatric euthanasia deaths attributed to the Netherlands euthanasia clinic include a woman who was going blind and obsessed with cleanliness

The Supreme Court of Canada stated in its Carter decision that euthanasia could be permitted for physical and psychological suffering. They did not define psychological suffering.

Canadians should be concerned that we are following the Dutch path.

Further reading:

Dutch euthanasia deaths continue to rise in 2015

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Netherlands 2015 Euthanasia report indicates that euthanasia deaths continue to increase. According to the 2015 report, there were 5561 reported euthanasia deaths in 2015 up from 5306 reported euthanasia deaths in 2014

Since 2006, there has been a 289% increase in euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands.

There is also an increase in the number of euthanasia deaths for people with dementia and for psychiatric reasons. There were 109 people who died by euthanasia based on dementia in 2015, up from 81 in 2014 representing a 34% increase. There 56 people died by euthanasia based on psychiatric reasons in 2015, up from 41 in 2014 representing a 36% increase.

Similar to the 2014 report, there were only 4 cases referred by a Regional Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission for investigation.

In January 2016, the Netherlands decided to extend euthanasia to people with severe dementia. The Netherlands euthanasia lobby is now lobbying the government to approve euthanasia for people who are healthy but "tired of living."

A study, that was published on Feb 10, 2016 in the Journal of Psychiatryconcerning euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in the Netherlandsuncovered significant concerns. According to researcher Scott Kim:

in one EAS case, a woman who died by euthanasia was in her 70s without health problems had decided, with her husband, that they would not live without each other. After her husband died, she lived a life described as a "living hell" that was "meaningless." 
A consultant reported that this woman "did not feel depressed at all. She ate, drank and slept well. She followed the news and undertook activities."

Every five years the Netherlands conducts a major study on euthanasia. We are expecting to receive the 2015 study in early 2017. The 2010 study was published in the Lancet (July 2012) indicated that 23% of all assisted deaths went unreported in the Netherlands.

Charles Lewis: Resist falling prey to a system of legalized murder

By Charlie Lewis

Most everyone has heard of the notion that if you put myriad monkeys in a room with typewriters, pens, paper and computers eventually one of our simian friends would produce a work akin to Hemingway, St. Augustine or Judith Krantz. 

I think what they would end up with would be closer to Bill C-14, the Liberal government's bill on euthanasia and assisted suicide— or as I call it, killing of patients — released Thursday.

As Kelly McParland wrote in the National Post, the only beneficiaries will be lawyers who should be able to buy a beautiful cottage or two from the legal fees that will be generated by the confusion generated by this bill.

It raises so many questions you wonder whether adults wrote it or their young progeny during a “bring your kids to work” day. The bill is so unclear it leaves open critical questions: Who will be considered terminal? Will a physician have the right to exercise his or her conscience and refuse to refer a patient to someone who would kill him or her? Does it allow for non-medical personnel to administer the poison? 

Try to figure this cryptic clue about who is eligible: 

“[N]atural death has become reasonably foreseeable (precise proximity to death is not required).”

No one can define what “reasonably foreseeable means” and nor could anyone of average intelligence or greater even begin to unravel the clause that “precise proximity to death is not required.”

The one good thing we can say about Bill C-14 is that it has upset activists on both sides of the debate. That would normally be good politics because it demonstrates independent thinking on the part of the government and a refusal to pander. But in this case the government does not deserve credit.

This bill is simply inept. It does not follow the odious recommendations of its own fact-finding committee and nor does it follow the Supreme Court of Canada decision of February 2015 which declared our ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia void.

For example, the court decision allowed for the killing of psychiatric patients and those with non-fatal chronic pain. The government follows none of this.

We who have fought against the killing of patients should be happy, right? We appear to have won some battles, right?

For the most part we are not happy at all.

Most of us have said for years that any bill will be a starting point for greater calamity. A conservative, restrictive bill would grow over time as citizens became more used to it, which was the case in Holland and Belgium. A few years ago the doctor who was the architect of Quebec's euthanasia law said the province's effort was just a beginning and over time the law would encompass more ailments and younger patients. It was awful to hear but at least honest.

Now we have been left with a mess. A good lawyer, Supreme Court decision in hand, will easily be able to challenge the "restrictions" in the new law and crush them like a bug.

For those of us fighting the killing of patients our job will be harder. My fear is that even anti-euthanasia audiences will start to think this bill is really not so bad and that the government seemed to have listened to our concerns.

That is delusional.

The bill is the way it is because of incompetence. It leaves a giant legal vacuum in which any "violation" of the bill will easily be contested because the language is so vague. 

We are going to have at some point a law that will be much broader than what the government has proposed. It may take a few years but it will happen. In the meantime, many more Canadian will buy into the lie that Bill C-14 is a perfect compromise that is safe and responsible. 

By the time the law allows children, psychiatric patients and those who are simply tired of life to end their lives with state approval and assistance most Canadian will have been lulled into a false sense of safety and simply will not notice as the beast grows.

At least a clear bill would have made it easier to fight. It might have alarmed enough people who would have resisted falling prey to a system of legalized murder. Who would have thought this government would have been this sneaky?

Charlie Lewis writes a regular column for the Catholic Register and is a former reporter for the National Post

Nanos poll: doctors should be able to opt-out of offering assisted dying - majority oppose assisted dying for minors and for psychiatric reasons

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In the past few weeks, three professionals polls have been done on Canadian views on euthanasia and assisted suicide, referred to as "assisted dying."

The recent Nanos poll of 1000 Canadians that was done March 31 - April 4, 2016 was commissioned by the Globe and Mail. The Nanos media release stated that the poll found:

Canadians believe doctors should be able to opt-out of offering assisted dying - majority oppose or somewhat oppose assisted dying for minors 
• The majority of Canadians think that doctors should be able to opt-out of providing access to assisted dying against the will of their patients. Most Canadians do not think people under the age of 16 and 17 years should be able to access assisted dying and a marginal majority think that those with mental illness or psychiatric conditions should have access.

• Ability of doctors to opt-out - Three-fourths (75%) of Canadians believe doctors should be able to opt-out of offering assisted dying against the will of their patients (50% agree; 25% somewhat agree). Twenty-one percent say they would disagree or somewhat disagree with the same thing (11% disagree; 10% somewhat disagree). Four percent of Canadians are unsure.

• Assisted dying and minors - Six in ten Canadians (60%) say that they would disagree or somewhat disagree (16% somewhat disagree; 43% disagree), that minors who are 16 and 17 years of age should be able to access assisted dying, while thirty-seven percent of Canadians either agree (13%) or somewhat agree (24%). Five percent are unsure.

• Assisted dying and mental illness - Half of Canadians (52%) would either somewhat disagree (18%) with letting people with mental illness or psychiatric conditions access assisted dying, or disagree (34%). Just over two fifths (42%) of Canadians think that people who are suffering from with mental illness or psychiatric conditions should be able to access assisted dying (22% agree; 20% somewhat agree), while six percent of Canadians are unsure. 
The full survey results can be found by visiting our website.

Link to the full article

Senator Denise Batters: Help the mentally ill. Don’t kill them

Senator Denise Batters

Senator Denise Batters

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The National Post featured a guest column, on March 14, 2016, by Senator Denise Batters concerning her opposition to the legalization of euthanasia for people with psychiatric issues. Senator Batters is a lawyer and a mental health advocate.

Previous article by Senator Batters.

Batters was widowed when Dave Batters, her husband, died by suicide in 2009 while he was a sitting member of parliament. Senator Batters experience with her husband's suicide led her to strongly oppose euthanasia for people who live with psychological suffering.

Senator Batters writes in her National Post column:

Questions surrounding suicide are deeply personal to me. I lost my husband, former member of Parliament Dave Batters, to suicide in 2009, after his struggle with severe anxiety and depression. In the years following his death, I have worked to raise awareness and dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. That has included communicating to those struggling with mental illness, particularly with those who harbour thoughts of suicide, to encourage them not to give up, but to instead reach out for help. 
This is why I have reacted so strongly against the recent majority report of the joint parliamentary committee studying physician-assisted suicide. Polls show that most Canadians agree with physician-assisted suicide, but usually those poll questions (and Canadians) assume that only those with terminal illnesses would be given the option. Canadians want strict safeguards on who is eligible for assisted dying and legislators have the responsibility to provide that clarity. The committee report failed to provide either. Instead, it threw open the door to a number of shocking scenarios.

Link to the full article

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Postcard Campaign

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) has launched a postcard campaign to Members of Parliament under the theme: I support Caring Not Killing.

The postcard campaign urges members of parliament to reject euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with dementia and minors, people with psychiatric conditions and to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals.

EPC is distributing three different bilingual postcards to be sent to Prime Minister Trudeau, or Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould or your Member of Parliament (MP).

Link to the list of members of parliament.

Order the postcards by contacting EPC at: 1-877-439-3348 or email: and tell us how many postcards you want and where we need to send them. EPC is distributing the postcards for free, but we ask you to consider making a donation to the cost of the campaign.

On the one side of the card, write your name, address, Postal Code and Signature. On the other side of the card and write the name of the political leader or your member of parliament.

It is free to mail the postcards to federal politicians.

Link to the full article