Belgian fighting over euthanasia for mental illness and dementia

Belgium's biggest advocate of euthanasia liberalization is campaigning strongly for euthanasia for people with dementia. Under current euthanasia law patients are only eligible if they are fully aware and competent. This can cause disturbed situations and must change, says Professor Wim Distelmans.

Distelmans is chairman of Belgium's Federal Euthanasia Commission, the body that assesses whether euthanasia cases were made legally. But he also chairs LEIF (the Life End Information Forum), Belgium's pioneering lobby.

LEIF organized an online petition signed by scores of academics, journalists and politicians recognized as well as thousands of others. In addition, LEIF contributed three heart-drive videos to people with dementia who have presented the case for euthanasia.

Distelmans requests a LEIF website:

“What are they waiting to prioritize this fundamental human and patient right on the political agenda? After all, there is no obligation on anyone to euthanasise or apply it, even in the proposed amendment of the law. But many cases can be considered to be 'degraded'; people involved in them by applying the advance guidance also to those with dementia or other incapacity. ”

However, at the same time moving in the opposite direction, the Belgian medical policy has applied a much more restrictive policy to euthanasia for psychiatric patients. This is a significant change in policy.

Belgian euthanasia law states that the treatment doctor must seek the advice of two other doctors, including at least one psychiatrist who is not the treatment psychiatrist. However, the new Orde van Artsen guidelines set out that the treatment doctor should consult not only an independent psychiatrist but two people who should meet with someone to discuss the case. This new standard is much more difficult. According to guidance 29 April:

the doctor considering euthanasia in psychiatric patients should go one step further and meet both psychiatrists physically. A physical meeting leads to an interdisciplinary meeting where all doctors objectively explain their views. Doctors should prepare a joint report and make a joint decision, without needing to agree everything.

It is recommended that this physical consultation should involve all healthcare providers who are in regular contact with the psychiatric patient. In addition to nursing staff, it is recommended that the psychologists and psychotherapists involved in the achievement of the care process be involved in the consultation.

In theory, this implies that the Orde van Artsen could allow a doctor over euthanasia which was legally correct.

Michael Cook it is editor of BioEdge

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Michael Cook
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