American Psychiatric Association Expresses Opposition to Assisted Suicide for Mentally Ill

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has released a formal position statement expressing opposition to assisted suicide in cases where the patient is not terminally ill.

According to reports, the statement was approved this month by the APA’s board of trustees after being passed last month by the general assembly.

“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,” it states.

The assembly had discussed concerns about current practices in the Netherlands and Belgium, where euthanasia is permitted for those who are mentally ill.

“So far, no other country that has implemented physician-assisted suicide has been able to constrain its application solely to the terminally ill, eventually including non-terminal patients as legally eligible as well,” Dr. Mark Komrad of the APA ethics committee told BioEdge. “This is when psychiatric patients start to be included.”

He expressed worriment that the United States and Canada could go the way of Europe. Canadian leaders are currently pondering “requests made by individuals with mental illness as their sole underlying condition.”

“[W]hy should they stop the chronically depressed [from euthanasia] because they have ‘good days and bad days?’ Even on the good days, I know the bad days are coming,” wrote Graeme Bayliss of The Walrus in April. Bayliss suffers from depression.

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Like some who argue in favor of keeping abortion legal because women will otherwise take the practice into their own hands, Bayliss said that not legalizing euthanasia for the mentally ill leaves them to have to commit suicide by themselves.

“And so, for those unlucky few who have tried everything and decided that a life mired in oppressive and unremitting sadness is no life at all: rope, razor blades, pills; bridges, subways, skyscrapers; an emissions-happy car and a length of hose. Those are the choices that Trudeau has left us with,” he remarked.

But the APA said in its resolution that “A fundamental and critical ethos of psychiatrists is to prevent suicide,” as well as “to help patients find alternative paths through suffering to a better future, and to even find meaning in suffering.”

As previously reported, earlier this year, a Dutch man who struggled with depression and became addicted to alcohol in trying to deal with the condition died by assisted suicide.

“My brother suffered from depression and anxiety and tried to ‘cure’ it with alcohol. He’s from a normal family, he did not want this to happen. He did not take an easy way out. Just a humane one,” Mark Langedijk’s brother, Marcel Langedijk, wrote in a blog post. “Alcoholism and depression are illnesses, just like cancer. People who suffer from it need a humane way out.”

But others opined that the way out should not be suicide.

“What someone suffering from alcoholism needs is support and treatment to get better from their addiction, which can be provided—not to be euthanized,” British MP Fiona Bruce, who also serves as co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, told the Daily Mail. “It is once again a troubling sign of how legalized euthanasia undermines in other countries the treatment and help the most vulnerable should receive.”

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