Prestigious Bioethics Journal Advocates Assisted Suicide For Clinically Depressed

By Elizabeth O’Brien

GARRISON, NY, July 10, 2007 ( - One of America’s most prestigious bioethics journals has recently published an article questioning the policies currently in place across the world that prevent access to euthanasia for the clinically depressed.

In the May-June issue of the Hastings Center Report, Jacob Appel, a university professor from Providence, R.I., refers to the 1994 Death with Dignity Act in Oregon as well as California’s Compassionate Choices Act that was approved this March. Noting the high tolerance for euthanasia in Europe, Appel cites the famous case in Switzerland last November when the Federal High Court of Lausanne ruled that euthanasia should be accessible for mentally depressed patients.

The case involved a 53-year old man who had previously tried to commit suicide twice. Backed by Dignitas, he argued a "right to self-determination" under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ruled that "incurable, permanent, severe psychological disorders" were sufficient reason to allow a person to commit suicide. Similarly, in 1993 the Dutch Supreme Court refused to penalize psychiatrist Boudewijn Chabot for assisting a chronically depressed patient, fifty-year old Hilly Bosscher, to commit suicide.

After providing these examples, Appel goes on to argue that assisted suicide may be a "rational" decision for sufferers of psychological illnesses, even if there is some promise of a possible cure in the future. Appel writes, "If the offer is that an effective treatment may eventually be found, but a person will have to suffer for some decades more until that happens, then it might still be rational to prefer suicide."

He also addressed the "competence of the decision maker," saying, "If the values championed by assisted suicide advocates are maximization of autonomy and minimization of suffering-even when they conflict with the extension of life-then it follows that chronically depressed, competent individuals would be ideal candidates for the procedure."

Quoting the Swiss Court decision, he states, "We are entering an era during which psychiatric patients do not need to be protected, but empowered. Our goal should be to maximize the options available to the mentally ill."

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), told that the article does not surprise him. According to Schadenberg, euthanasia advocates "view euthanasia as a cure for unbearable suffering, and they define that as what is personally unbearable to you. Allowing euthanasia for the mentally depressed is only a small step." According to this reasoning, "If you decide that someone who is physically suffering should be able to receive assisted suicide, why then would you deny it to someone who is suffering from mental illness?"

Schadenberg also notes the push to loosen euthanasia regulations has increased everywhere. As stated in the 2006 EPC Newsletter, Jocelyn Downie, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, called for the legalizing of euthanasia in Canada. She argued that the status of euthanasia should be "reformed" so that people who request assisted suicide should be respected, provided that they are "informed" and "mentally competent individuals." In effect, this reformation would lead to the removal of the safeguards surrounding euthanasia in Canada.
  Similarly, the June 2007 issue of the Dutch Right to Die organization NVVE, reports that according to chairman Eugene Sutorius, the NVVE "is no longer a one issue (euthanasia) society but aims to support all other possible ways to end life, from doing nothing at all to the lastwillpill and all options in between." In the future, the organization will be focusing its attention on "three different groups of patients who, so far, are not covered by present legislation: people whose life is accomplished, demented persons and chronically psychiatric patients."

Read the editorial, The Cruelest Irony of All - When "Those Who Heal You Will Kill You"

Read related LifeSiteNews coverage:

Mentally Ill have a Right to Assisted Suicide , Swiss High Court Rules

Swiss Group Performs Assisted Suicide for Foreigners

Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill Approved by California Judiciary Committee

California Appeals Court Blocks Attempt to Overturn Oregon Euthanasia Law

From Euthanasia to Marijuana to Live Sex Shows Oregon Allows it All

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