Feeling Seen, Being Heard: Perspectives of Patients Suffering from Mental Illness on the Possibility of Physician-Assisted Death in the Netherlands

Rosalie Pronk*, Dick L. Willems, Suzanne van de Vathorst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Physician-assisted death (PAD) for patients suffering from a mental illness is allowed in the Netherlands under certain conditions but is a very controversial topic, mainly discussed by ethicists and physicians. The voice of the patient is rarely included in the debate, so we know little about what their views on the topic are. We aim to understand the views of patients with mental illness and wish to die with regard to the possibility of PAD in the Netherlands. The data for this qualitative study were collected through 21 in-depth interviews with Dutch patients who have a wish for PAD as a result of suffering from a mental illness. We identified four themes in relation to the meaning of PAD for the patients suffering from mental illness and wish to die. These themes are (1) Autonomy and self-determination, (2) ending the suffering, (3) recognition, and (4) a dignified end-of-life. The option of PAD for patients suffering from mental illnesses was considered of great importance to the patients who have a wish to die. We highlight the importance of ‘recognition’ for the situation of the patient, as this could lead to new perspective. We argue that psychiatrists need to reflect on providing this recognition in earlier phases of treatment, taking seriously and discussing a wish for PAD in treatment is beneficial to patients. It provides space for the patient to discuss their wishes and could cause them not wanting to die anymore.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-489
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Volume46
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This study was funded by the Dutch Dying with Dignity Foundation (NVVE). The NVVE had no part in the design, data collection, interpretation, or reporting of this work.

Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s).

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