Proper palliative care makes assisted dying unnecessary

SINCE 2002 Belgium has been one of the very few countries in the world in which doctors can perform euthanasia. Patients need to be in a hopeless state of constant and unbearable physical or mental pain that cannot be alleviated, or suffering as a result of a serious and incurable disorder caused by an accident or illness.

The main motivation for the change in the law was to give doctors the possibility to relieve physical symptoms such as pain, suffocation or anxiety in terminal disease. However, euthanasia is now applied in patients with longer life expectancy who are not suffering unbearable physical symptoms but experiencing a lack of meaning in life and limitations in their activities: for instance in chronic neurodegenerative or psychiatric diseases such as dementia, autism or depression. Even in patients with underlying diseases, such as cancer, euthanasia is often requested for psychological reasons such as loss of autonomy and fear of future suffering or being a burden to others. In 2015, 2,022 patients underwent euthanasia in Belgium, among them 299 in non-terminal circumstances.

Read more at The Economist…

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