A horrific story has emerged from the Netherlands, where a young woman was killed by euthanasia after doctors deemed care for her manifold psychiatric troubles futile. The woman was a victim of sexual abuse and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, the woman’s afflictions included, “severe anorexia, chronic depression and suicidal mood swings, tendencies to self-harm, hallucinations, obsessions and compulsions.” The woman died at the hands of doctors who, claiming to believe that the woman’s condition could not be treated, lethally injected her.
This attitude is not relegated to countries such as the Netherlands where euthanasia is legal and common. Here in Texas, hospitals and physicians invoke the draconian language of the Texas Advance Directives Act when treating cases they, too, deem “futile.” The case of Chris Dunn last December is just one of numerous instances of abuse of discretion protected by Texas law.
The case is a sobering example of the cold, utilitarian considerations that guide life-and-death decisions in countries where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal. In the Netherlands, precedent has even been set to euthanize patients without their consent, as was the tragic fate of an elderly woman with dementia last year.
Outrage has ensued over the case of the young sexual abuse victim, especially in Britain, where disability rights advocates wage an ongoing war against Parliament’s tendency to sympathize with euthanasia legislation. Although British MPs recently voted against a hotly-contended Assisted Dying Bill by a 336-118 margin, Pro-Life activists and advocates for vulnerable groups fear that the nation may ultimately permit assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Pro-Life MP Fiona Bruce denounced the killing as an act of injustice, saying: “What this woman needed, at a desperate point in her young life, was help and support to overcome her problems, not the option of euthanasia.” Labour MP Robert Flello also addressed the injustice of the killing, saying: “It almost sends the message that if you are the victim of abuse, and as a result you get a mental illness, you are punished by being killed, that the punishment for the crime of being a victim is death.” In a culture where sexual abuse activists ostensibly work to curb victim-blaming, euthanizing a victim flies in the face of progress.
Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, noted that euthanasia for psychiatric reasons is climbing at an alarming, exponential rate in the Netherlands over the last few years. He reports: “In 2010 there were 2 reported cases of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in the Netherlands and in 2015 there were 56 reported cases.”
Schadenberg cited a key researcher on the topic, Dr. Scott Kim, who notes some of the problems that arise when medical professionals treat euthanasia as a viable resource for suffering individuals. “There is no evidence base to operationalize ‘unbearable suffering,’” says Dr. Kim, “there are no prospective studies of decision-making capacity in persons seeking EAS for psychiatric reasons, and the prognosis of patients labeled as ‘treatment-resistant depression’ varies considerably, depending on the population and the kind of treatments they receive.”