One understands the rationale. Some very elderly patients, suffering from terminal illness, prefer to end their lives sooner, rather than later. In some circumstances, there is no longer any hope. Thus, in sophisticated and supposedly civilized countries like the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal. Dare we note, that capital punishment is not legal: it is reviled as a barbaric practice.
But, as I posted several days ago, it is not just legal for terminal cancer patients. It is also legal for people suffering from mental illness, in particular, from depression. Since people who are depressed are often convinced that their case is hopeless and that they do better to die, it appears that the laws do not distinguish between physical and mental illness.
Last year 5,516 people in the Netherlands were killed by physicians, among them, children. A few days ago I posted about a young women in her mid- twenties who was suffering from depression following a sexual assault. Her psychiatrists decided that her case was hopeless, that she could never recover, and thus that they should respect her wishes and end her life. While it is certainly true that some rape victims have such feelings, and while it is also true that the current conversation about rape tends to downplay the possibility for recovery, why should a society assert by its actions that a rape victim's life is no longer worth living? Doesn't this contribute to her illness and persuade her that her case is hopeless?
For my part, and for what it’s worth, I disagree. I do not accept that a society should give up on a young woman and declare her case to be hopeless. Since depression is learned helplessness, a society that accepts this opinion as fact risks reinforcing the depression. Shouldn’t a physician’s job be always to keep hope alive, most especially in cases involving mental illness?
You will also be thinking: what is the difference between euthanasia and suicide? Many of those who want their physicians to kill them have tried suicide and have, evidently, failed at it.
One understands the suicide might be considered a selfish act. It bears a stigma; it denotes weakness. But, it is most often an entirely personal decision. Now, with the Dutch euthanasia laws, an individual can overcome the stigma of suicide by being put to death by medical, thus scientific authority. Keep firmly in mind, these decisions are made by physicians, thus by men and women of science.
It’s one thing to say that you feel that your case is hopeless and that you believe that you will never recover. If your condition is mental, we are talking about a belief, even a conviction. It’s quite another thing to say that medical science has decided definitively that your case is hopeless and will never improve. When they say that the only solution is death, aren’t they feeding the conviction?
To repeat myself, one understands that a nonagenarian terminal cancer patient might well prefer to die, but all of the 5,516 Dutch euthanasia victims do not belong in this category.
The authorities might have considered that, in the case of mental illness, the euthanasia law is producing the problem that they are trying to solve. If depressed patients become overcome by feelings of hopelessness, does it help or hurt their condition to hear from their government that they are right, not that they might be right, but that they are absolutely and irrevocably correct.
Are we that sure that these laws do not foster the conditions that convince people that they should die, that they are doing the world a favor and that the world agrees? Euthanasia laws turn an egotistical act into an altruistic act.
What I am trying to say is simple: good intentions do not necessarily lead to good outcomes. And, a treatment that might pertain to an elderly person with terminal cancer does not necessarily apply to a young person suffering from depression. Our scientists insist on conflating mental illness with physical illness. They believe that it's all a matter of biochemistry. Thousands of people in the Netherlands, and surely in other enlightened countries, are being executed for this error.