Should people with serious mental illnesses have the right to euthanasia?

I strongly believe that if someone with a terminal or very painful illness wants to kill themselves, that should be their right. I see from reading the boards that many people here agree with this. I believe it’s unethical to tell someone else what to do with their body and their life. As long as they can make that decision for themselves (not getting into euthanasia of coma patients or infants, not here at least), why should anyone stop them? Nobody knows what pain the victim is in but the victim himself. And legal euthanasia is preferable to home-spun methods for many reasons–the victim doesn’t suffer for days from a damaged liver before dying (as can happen in many OTC pain pill/alcohol overdoses), they don’t pose danger to anyone else (as can happen in car wrecks and falling deaths), there’s not the risk of serious injury that doesn’t cause death (gunshots, sharp objects, etc). Most people tend to agree that people with terminal and chronic diseases have the right to die with dignity via a pain-free method.

Why, then, is there a double standard when it comes to severe mental illness and euthanasia? Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses are serious, life-ruining diseases, without sure-fire cures. Sure, there are many depressed people who would take advantage of a new euthanasia law without thinking it through, but whether or not the person in question was just looking for an “easy” solution to recent trauma or whether they had thought out their decision would be easy to determine based on past history–as in, there would be a big difference between someone who had just become situationally depressed and someone who’d been on dozens of medications, ECT, and so forth, and still had no relief. Diseases like schizophrenia are “terminal” even if they do not result in death. And I know from experience that mental illness can be just as painful, isolating, and devastating as any physical disorder. And I “only” have anxiety/agoraphobia–I can’t even imagine what it would be like for someone with a psychotic disorder.

Personally, I feel that seriously mentally ill people should also have the right of legal euthanasia. (Well, actually, I think the right to die should be extended to everyone regardless of their health, but that’s another subject.) However, whenever I read articles promoting mercy death, they explicitly say that euthanasia should be considered only in cases where the sufferer does not have a mental illness. What makes it a different situation?

Because so many people who commit suicide suffer from depression. Not the existential angst of deep philosophy, just a temporary imbalance of chemicals. Psychological smallpox. Treatable, not necessarily fatal.

The part of your brain that is affected during depression is also the part that affects decision-making ability. (I think I am correct in this.) Most depression is a temporary state. The kind of depression that is chronic is not usually the mind-numbing kind although there will be bouts of that too.

With that said, I did experience a psychotic episode in reaction to the wrong medication. That was the most painful experience of my life. If there had been no way to relieve the pain, then I should have been put out of my misery.

Unfortunately, depression is often a terminal illness because one of the symptoms is total hopelessness. Victims can’t understand that their pain will end.

I’ve had physical pain that made me wish for death, but I also knew that I would be getting better every day, so I could focus on that. It made a difference. But the metally ill just don’t have that to hang onto.

The only problem I have with assisted suicide for the mentally ill is that we are so ignorant about most mental illness. Absolutely, if someone is in mental pain and always will be (or will be long enough for them) they should be allowed out. The problem is figuring out who is in that state and going to remain there, and who is just visiting.

It’s like if someone wanted to kill themselves over a kidney stone. Excruciating pain, mind-blowing horrible pain, but it usually will go away. I know I wouldn’t want my husband deciding that he couldn’t take the pain any more and killing himself to get rid of it if I knew that it was temporary.

But with any mental illness, who can say? Is depression temporary? Sometimes. Will it be for Fred? Who knows? Can we cure it? Not reliably. Could he be all better in a month? Possibly. Will it continue to deteriorate his life? It could. Might Paxil make it all better? Sure.

If we can ever get mental illness to the point where we can actually say with some authority what is happening, why, for how long, how bad it will get, and all those things we can say about most ailments that affect the rest of our bodies, then I’ll be 100% behind assisted suicide for anyone. As it stands, I’m just terrified that our overwhelming ignorance would end in the death of great people who just needed to hang on one more week.

I’ve always felt medically assisted suicide should be opted for under sound mind. Mental illness precludes that.

Define “sound mind.”

My husband has depression. He’s allowed to enter contracts and write his will and if he killed someone he wouldn’t be considered unfit for trial. Is he of “sound mind”?

I would say “sound mind” meant having the capacity to realistically assess one’s prospects for relief from suffering. As even suicidal ideation is considered part of the syndrome of serious depressive mental illness, it would be impossible to rule out desire for assisted suicide as a symptom of the distorted thinking known to plague those with depression. Psychotic delusions that could render a person incompetent in the legal sense are not characteristic of depressive illnesss.

So, if I’m reading you correctly, if someone wants to commit suicide it’s evidence that they can’t be allowed to commit suicide?

Paging Joe Heller…

Well, yes, that’s how I read Loopydude’s statement, but there are likely times in reality when we would accept that a Catch 22 situation is the only solution.

And, of course, he might not have meant what I think he meant, since my reading skills are notoriously wonky.

I am a strong supporter of euthanasia laws, but are there really that many people who would extend those laws to non-terminal, non-coma cases where the person is in persistant physical pain, nevermind persistant mental anguish. In my opinon a doctor should not be able to help you kill yourself if you have the possibility of surviving into the future in a non-comatose/non-vegatative state, regardless of how much physical or psychological pain you might be in.

I believe in people being able to make decisions about their own lives.

Let’s say you have a kidney stone, a pain that many consider to be the worst pain that people commonly endure. Now let’s say that the doctor says, “You’ve got this kidney stone and there isn’t anything we can do about it. We do not predict a time in the near future when we can cure you.”

I can’t see requiring someone to live under those circumstances. I can see encouraging them to do so, and I can see freaking out with guilt when the try and live for the next twenty years in horrific pain, too.

No. There are arguably rational and irrational reasons for wanting to commit suicide. A prior diagnosis of depressive illness would seem to make it impossible to determine if the desision can be made rationally, because suicidal thoughts are a very symptom of the disease, often reflecting feelings of hopelessness that are rooted in distorted thinking. Having said that, I don’t think suicidal ideation is enough on its own to render a diagnosis of depressive illness. I think a qualified mental health professional could evaluate patients with terminal diseases and determine that some of them, despite the pain they are suffering, are not afflicted with a mental illness.

I’m a diagnosed schizophrenic and a participant in the psych patients’ liberation movement.

We do have the right to kill ourselves (same as you do), whether the government or medical profession recognize that or not. That’s the essential meaning of “unalienable right”.

I think anyone who wants to check out needs to take responsibility for making that happen without putting other folks in the awkward position of having to sit back and watch it happen, as much as that is possible. As Judi Chamberlin (one of our leadership and author of On Our Own: Patient-controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System) once said, “You have the right to commit suicide, but you don’t have the right to commit suicide in my living room”.

I don’t believe suicide attempts (unsuccessful ones, obviously) should automatically precipitate involuntary incarceration. Nor should anything else except the violation of a law that would cause anyone else to be incarcerated involuntarily. The mentally ill should not have to meet a higher standard to merit ordinary freedom.

So that leaves the person (mentally ill or otherwise, really) who wants to cease being alive but who for some reason or in some fashion can’t get out of the context of other people who might intervene, or who can’t readily avail themselves of the means to carry it off without help.

Solution?

I would ideally like to see a law that says you can officially register your intent and if a year goes by and you have never rescinded it once during that time, and confirm on that anniversary that you still want to cash in your chips, you should be granted access to the same services (that should be) available to the chronically / terminally ill, i.e., physician-assisted suicide.

The euthenasia doctors would go after me first, considering I am wracked in pain, both physical and mental. So hells no I don’t favor assisted suicide for anyone.

Ummm…it’s not like death squads of doctors would come get you. Presumably it would be voluntary.

Please provide a strong cite (i.e., a peer-reviewed study) showing that depression is an imbalance of chemicals.

So are you saying it’s the life itself that’s important, and not the quality of said life?

**Dear Readers,

Yes, I yell it, I shout it, and ofcourse as a Schizophrenia victim i yearn it to commit euthanasia, as the ultimate way to shut down the pain and inner harrasment of schizophrenia.

I have been diagnosed for over 5 years with it, and now I stand before my ruined future and life,i lost all i once planned for, all the people I loved and every thing I ran for, because of it.

Let me say it, it makes me long for death, not to suffer a constant torture, so that I don’t look like what is enforced to me to look like.

I stand before my ruined life, and have frankly nothing no flag of success to uphold, No ability to concentration, nothing,…

It steals ts victims energy, in fact, it puts you in a situation of a virtual threat or fear and enjoys you whrighing to get out of it, meanwhile it drains off your energy, it steals your memory, and ability to be a real human, I have never hallucinated or been delisive but, it is too smart to be just a chemical imballance in the bran in fact, the hyper dopaminergic theory des simply NOT add up then,

I dont know, I have been helplessly trying over 10 years now not to be in pain, but I have used over 20kg weight again in the last 4 Month, having been in constant stress and its aftermath depression phase, losing my job and getting harrassed,… I AM A MAN BUT I FEEL RAPED AND HARRASSED, I FEEL RAVISHED, and I DO KNOW IT IT NOT A SIMPLE CHEMICAL IMBALANCE. I have contemplated suicide and i do it.

Not only me, but my friends and parents are also some how hurt. It is painful, and I know it like bein hijacked by some thing or who knows some one and be abused, NO MORE ENSLAVEMENT FOR ME. OVER.
I suicide, I do it.**

The real bitch of it is that a zombie that wants to kill itself has to manage a headshot.