Pro-Life advocates saw a glimmer of hope in the newly released statement by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The formal position statement rejects outright assisted suicide for individuals suffering from mental illness. The statement reads:
The American Psychiatric Association, in concert with the American Medical Association’s position on Medical Euthanasia, holds that a psychiatrist should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death.
While the position is not the robust defense of Life needed in the face of dangerous assisted suicide laws, the APA statement addresses one of the most shocking abuses of the assisted suicide movement. In Belgium and the Netherlands, patients suffering from mental illness no longer receive treatment but instead receive a death sentence. Doctors in Belgium and the Netherlands kill patients in response to “unbearable suffering” of any kind, whether the disorder is life-threatening or not, physical or mental.
Anti-Life activists pushing for assisted suicide in the United States often downplay the shocking results of assisted suicide laws in Europe. However, the facts remain that patients are being killed for suffering from depression, anorexia, or simply being born with autism. While the APA’s statement addresses some of the Pro-Life concerns about these shocking abuses, the organization does not go far enough. The potential positive result of the statement, as the Washington Post argues, is an international ethical response to the rampant abuses in Europe.
Even supporters of anti-Life assisted suicide laws have concerns about the mistreatment of people suffering from mental disorders. As Charles Lane articulates:
The troubling implications of physicians, especially psychiatrists, extinguishing life based on the supposed volition of mentally ill people who are, by definition, less capable of expressing clear intention — whose diseases are often manifest by a diminished grasp of reality — have stirred increasing concern both within Belgium and the Netherlands and beyond.
Though the APA’s position is a needed response to the anti-Life developments of the past decade, Pro-Life advocates can see that the statement does not go far enough. Even terminally ill patients can suffer from debilitating depression, and those people should not be told that their lives no longer have value. When assisted suicide is the law of the land, the elderly, the poor, and the disabled receive the message that their lives are a burden to their loved ones. Suicide is less expensive than treatment, and supposedly voluntary death is shown quickly to be anything but.
In Texas, we will work to repeal the draconian Texas Advanced Directives Act, which threatens hospitalized Texans with imposed death. Until the Right to Life of all people, including the vulnerable ill and disabled of our state, is respected, all lives are at risk. As we work to defend lives in Texas, we hope that the recent position of the APA is the first step toward a resounding rejection of assisted suicide by mental health professionals in our nation.