The practice was once prohibited, but it is back. Belgium and the Netherlands are euthanizing people with mental and cognitive disorders.
In 2002, Belgium legalized euthanasia for people suffering from unbearable and non-treatable medical conditions. This includes terminal or non-terminal conditions, including psychiatric ones.
Between 2014 and 2015, 124 out of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved people with mental and behavorial disorders. In December, 65 mental health professionals wrote a paper calling for stopping euthanasia for people with mental health disorders.
The letter reads in part:
“We see that some who were first declared incurable, eventually abandon euthanasia because new prospects showed up. In a paradoxical way, this proves that the disease cannot be called incurable.”
It’s a tough issue because people with mental disorders may be unable to decide clearly if they want to end their lives.
In the United States, a few states allow the execution of mentally handicapped people if they commit crimes. Mentally ill people can be executed, but those with intellectual disabilities cannot. In our justice system, we make a distinction between mental illness and “insanity.” They define insanity as being unaware of the punishment and unable to understand what they did.
State laws and the Supreme Court here allow mental illness to be presented as a mitigating factor when giving punishment to someone with a mental illness.
Canada’s new euthanasia law also allows people with non-terminal mental illnesses to be euthanized as well.
Right-to-die laws can help many people who are suffering from terminal conditions, but they can also hurt people who may have a chance. Some mental illnesses can’t be treated or cured, but many cases can. Many people can take medicine and find some relief from symptoms. They are incurable, but they can be managed. These people shouldn’t be allowed to end their lives when they have a hope left.
Featured image via Twitter.