sábado, 12 de diciembre de 2015

BioEdge: Call for Belgium to revise euthanasia legislation

BioEdge: Call for Belgium to revise euthanasia legislation

Call for Belgium to revise euthanasia legislation

Although legalised euthanasia is widely accepted amongst Belgian doctors and politicians and a pet cause of the media, many medicos still have misgivings. This week a group of psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers and others published a letter in De Morgen, a Flemish newspaper, asking the government to remove the option for euthanasia on the basis of psychological suffering alone.

This is probably the first time that a professional group has pushed back against the ever-widening circle of eligibility for euthanasia. The trigger for the letter was two vivid documentaries in the English-speaking media. The first, which appeared on the Australian SBS network, showed a doctor euthanizing an elderly woman without seeking a consultation with a psychiatrist, as he is supposed to do under current legislation. For the first time in the history of the legislation, the euthanasia commission decided to press charges. The second documentary was a video produced by The Economist about a 24-year-old woman suffering from severe depression who applied for euthanasia.

Here are some excerpts from the dissidents’ letter (translation here):

Mental suffering is real and can be at least as severe as physical suffering.

What is unique, however, is that you can only rely on the word of the person who is suffering to evaluate it. And this is clearly a good thing, because he or she is the only one who knows how much it hurts at that precise moment. At that moment indeed … because when we suffer psychologically, we are often convinced that no other future is possible.

It is often precisely these thoughts that push a person into the abyss, since as long as there is perspective, one can usually tolerate a great deal. We see that some people who were first declared terminally ill eventually abandon euthanasia because new prospects appear. In a paradoxical way, this proves that the disease cannot be called incurable …

Some also defend the thesis that the mere offering of death as an option can cause a positive change and can therefore also be considered a component of good care.

In our view, however, this inevitably entails the radical failure of the mental health sector. The use of “death as therapy”, possibly up to the point of actually even performing the requested euthanasia, implies a priori renouncing what therapy still can and should be offering: the inexhaustible opening up of new perspectives.

As representatives of the various directly-involved professional groups, from different parts of the country and from across the different ideological fault lines, we are alarmed by the increasing trivialisation of euthanasia on the grounds of mental suffering alone.

We believe that this situation is intrinsically linked to the concept of an act which is based on subjective criteria. That is why we insist that allowing euthanasia based on purely psychological suffering should be removed from the current legislation.
Supporters of euthanasia, of course, responded with their own letter, also signed by dozens of doctors and ethicists, including the chairman of euthanasia evaluation commission, Wim Distelmans. They described their colleagues’ letter as “well intentioned but nonetheless misguided” because it was paternalistic and demonstrated a profound lack of empathy. “The suffering of some patients is so unfathomably deep, that granting their request for assisted medical and painless death, from a certain moment, the best thing the health sector has to offer,” they write. 
- See more at: http://www.bioedge.org/bioethics/call-for-belgium-to-revise-euthanasia-legislation/11690#sthash.wYIQ5MhF.dpuf


Now that Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke has burned his medical registration rather than give up promoting the right to die, he is tackling his Big Idea: rational suicide.
He is planning to hold a seminar in Melbourne next September to show that people do not have to be depressed or terminally ill to want to die. “The reality is, a portion of our population will suicide and I don’t think we should make it so hard,” Nitschke told The Guardian. He believes that bereaved spouses, long-term prisoners, and all old people should have access to lethal medications so that they can kill themselves.
Australia’s National Mental Health Commissioner, Professor Ian Hickie was appalled by Nitschke’s remarks and spoke out with unusual frankness:
“Nitschke has no understanding of mental health and related issues, and absolutely no empathy. He has demonstrated a lack of humanity and a lack of concern for those who find themselves in these situations and their families, and a complete lack of compassion for those who are socially isolated and trying to connect with their world. I find it a totally unacceptable and appalling idea that age is a proxy for the end of your useful life. To reinforce that is an abhorrent idea.”
However, Nitschke has raised – or rather revived, for the Greeks and Romans discussed the same topic – a good question. If life is really a good, can it ever be rational to take it? If it is not unconditionally good, why can’t we take it? What gives life any value? I can’t say that I have ever admired Nitschke’s ideas or his work, but without people like him, would we be asking these big questions? 

Michael Cook

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