A study in Belgium reveals that patients suffering from depression and personality disorders were most likely to make euthanasia requests. Study co-author Dr. Lieve Thienpont and his team of University Hospital Brussels, published their findings in the journal BMJ Open. In Belgium, euthanasia has been legal since 2002. According to Dr. Thienpont and colleagues, psychological suffering or distress is a valid legal basis for euthanasia in countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. For their assessment, the team studied the euthanasia requests made by 100 individuals on the grounds of intolerable suffering. They were receiving treatment for psychiatric disorders at outpatient clinics in Belgium. According to the study, ninety-one of the patients were referred for counseling, while 73 were considered medically unfit to work and 59 lived alone.
Report says more than one psychiatric illness was identified among 90% of patients with depression being the most recurrent diagnosis, affecting 58 patients. Personality disorders were the second most common mental illness and affected 50 patients. Among the patients, 13 were tested specifically for autism. Of these, 12 were diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. According to the study results, 48 euthanasia requests were accepted and 35 were performed.
Dr. Thienpont said,”Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for the management of euthanasia requests on grounds of mental suffering in Belgium. Taking into account the ongoing fierce ethical debates, it is essential to develop such guidelines, and translate them into clear and detailed protocols that can be applied in practice.”
This article first appeared on ‘Doctor Pulse’ on 29 July 2015.