Physician-Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Disorders Examined — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
February 11, 2016

Physician-Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Disorders Examined

By Kelly Young

Edited by Susan Sadoughi, MD, and Richard Saitz, MD, MPH, FACP, FASAM

An analysis of completed physician-assisted suicides in patients with psychiatric disorders suggests that physicians frequently disagreed about whether the patient met criteria for assistance in dying. Findings from the Dutch study appear in JAMA Psychiatry. (Of note, in the four U.S. states that allow physician-assisted suicide, laws limit the practice to patients with terminal conditions.)

Researchers reviewed 66 euthanasia or assisted-suicide cases of patients with psychiatric disorders from 2011 to 2014. Seventy percent of this group was female. Over half of patients had depressive disorders, and nearly 70% had a psychiatric history of at least 11 years.

In 56% of cases, social isolation or loneliness was mentioned in the case report, prompting a concern that "physician-assisted death served as a substitute for effective psychosocial intervention and support," writes an editorialist.

He says that the data "raise serious concerns about the implementation of physician-assisted dying for psychiatric patients." For instance, in 12% of cases, the psychiatrist thought that the patient did not meet the Dutch assisted-suicide criteria, but euthanasia was still performed. Overall, physicians disagreed among themselves about whether the criteria were met in 24% of cases.

Reader Comments (2)

Vanessa Greer DNP, ACNPC, CNS Nurse/NP/PA, Emergency Medicine, VA

The ethical ramifications are overwhelming. What is the impact on society when sadness and depression lead to termination of life? Do we allow those that have sorrow when they loose a loved one, a job, a marriage and so on? We have a responsibility to help humanity even if it means protecting themselves from themselves. Of those that have survived suicide attempt at the Golden Gate Bridge have reported that they changed their mind after they jumped. There is life after life, it’s our professional responsibility to be their for our communities.

William DeMedio MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Private

Please don't insult me by calling people who do this "physician". A physician does not hand a depressed patient a loaded gun, let alone pull the trigger, or whatever the mode of execution may be.

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