Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Treating Depression with Physician Assisted Suicide

Prepare to be appalled. Gird your loins, you are about to face the worst treatment for chronic depression.

Authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands have decided to offer the severely depressed a new treatment: physician assisted suicide. There, that will solve the problem of having recalcitrant patients!

Wesley Smith reports for National Review on Bonnie Steinbock’s study, aptly entitled: “Physician-Assisted Death and Severe, Treatment-Resistant Depression,” Hastings Center Report 47, no. 5 (2017): 30–42. DOI: 10.1002/hast.768. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Of course, this is so appalling that it is probably true. To be fair, I will quote the abstract from Steinbock’s article:

Should people suffering from untreatable psychiatric conditions be eligible for physician-assisted death? This is possible in Belgium and the Netherlands, where PAD for psychiatric conditions is permitted, though rare, so long as the criteria of due care are met. Those opposed to all instances of PAD point to Belgium and the Netherlands as a dark warning that once PAD is legalized, restricting it will prove impossible because safeguards, such as the requirement that a patient be terminally ill, will inevitably be eroded or discarded. However, some supporters respond that limiting PAD to those suffering from terminal illness, or physical illnesses generally, is arbitrary and illogical. In addition, precisely because such patients are not terminally ill, their suffering may last for years, even the rest of their lives. Finally, severe depression may not be treatable. If PAD is justifiable under some conditions—as I shall assume in this article—then why wouldn't it be justifiable for these patients? Why shouldn't psychiatrists who have nothing else to offer their suffering patients be able to help them to die, if that is what they want?

Are these policies the future toward which our civilization is lurching? Are the physicians doing this because they respect the wishes of suicidal patients? Have they asked themselves what incentive these patients have to overcome depression when the medical profession has pronounced them to be hopeless cases? Have they asked themselves whether they are promoting feelings of hopelessness with their own appalling attitude?

For the record, the history of psychiatry is dotted with great new discoveries in the treatment of depression. From electroshock to lithium to tricyclic antidepressants to SSRIs, many of these treatments have helped people whose condition had previously been considered to be untreatable.  This does not include advances in cognitive treatment and the significant improvement shown by patients who undertake an exercise program or who get a new job.

Are these physicians willing to promise that no new treatment will be discovered next month or next year? Perhaps these physicians should examine themselves before they decide to punish their depressed patients with death.

Since depression involves feelings of detachment, social dislocation and helplessness, a certain quantity of optimism might be more effective than a physician’s willingness to sign a death warrant. Sometimes what matters is finding the right therapist, one with whom the patient makes a personal connection. 

There ought to be a special place in Hell for physicians that happily declare depressed patients to be hopeless and that try to cure their hopelessness with assisted suicide.


james said...

9'th circle?

Sam L. said...

Death is cheaper than therapy. Bottom line "medicine".

Anonymous said...

Its the herd management approach of the Complete Lives health care model. Sometimes, it's more cost-effective to cull the weak.