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Mental health and the right to die (tw)

I strongly believe in the right to die: people should not have to live out their last days in unnecessary agony. But what if their suffering is caused by mental illness, like depression?

From MSN.com:

“Doctors in Belgium are granting a healthy 24-year-old woman who is suffering from depression the right to die, as she qualifies for euthanasia, even though she does not have a terminal or life-threatening illness.

The 24-year-old female, known simply as Laura, has been given the go ahead by health professionals in Belgium to receive a lethal injection after spending both her childhood and adult life suffering from “suicidal” thoughts,” she told local Belgian media.”


These days, mental health is making strides toward becoming more accepted and understood as a legitimate illness - that people with mental health issues are just as sick as someone with a physical health issue (and that often, they go hand in hand).

At the same time, the right to die (at least from what I see here in Canada) is almost exclusively considered in the case of terminal physical illness, such as ALS or cancer. It also requires a patient capable of understanding the gravity of the decision.

So what of those who wish to die due to debilitating depression, PTSD or other mental health issues? Of course individual cases would vary greatly, but as a whole: can a person with mental illness consent to ending their life?

I’m not sure where I sit in this arena. On the one hand, I believe that everyone has a right to live or not live, as they see fit.


However, I know myself and many others who have been actively suicidal and might have chosen euthanasia during the most difficult periods, were it an option. Those people are all alive today - but would they be if the right to die had been an option?

I don’t know the answer. Perhaps it’s a combination of investing more in preventative measures, like mental health initiatives, and palliative care, with euthanasia as a closely regulated last resort. I just know that I believe people should not have to suffer needlessly.


What do you think?

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