30 June 2015, The Tablet

Belgium euthanases one person with psychological issues per week

The gradual loosening of restrictions for euthanasia has made headlines in Belgium as an official revealed about 50 people opt to die annually for psychological reasons and a Brussels newspaper profiled a physically healthy 24-year-old woman due to die this summer because she cannot deal with her depression.

Wim Distelmans, chairman of the Federal Euthanasia Commission, said bipolar patients were the majority of the 50-60 psychiatric suicides, between 2 and 3 per cent of the 1,924 persons who died last year by euthanasia, which was legalised in 2002 for terminally ill patients.

“Mostly they’re not old, but they’ve suffered for a long time,” he said. “They think they’re not at home in this world.” Distelmans said a rising number of foreigners asked for euthanasia in Belgium, but the country would not allow “euthanasia tourism” and anyway could not deal with foreign psychiatric patients.

The Flemish daily De Morgen drew attention to the trend with a long profile of Laura, a women it said had friends, enjoyed the theatre and good coffee, but said “life isn’t for me.” She came from a broken home and suffered in school, Laura said, creating a “monster” inside herself that she finds unbearable. After she asked to be euthanised, three psychiatrists analysed her and concluded she should be allowed to die.

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