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Doctors in Holland give lethal injection to woman, 29, suffering from depression

Doctors in Holland have performed the euthanasia of a young woman who was suffering from mental health problems.

Aurelia Brouwers, 29, who was physically fit, was given a lethal injection less than a month after winning an eight-year battle to end her life.

Her bouts of depression, she argued, made her life intolerable and led her to attempt suicide, and commit self-harm and arson.

She also suffered from a borderline personality disorder, addiction and anxiety disorders and claimed to sometimes hear voices.

She has spent nearly three years in a mental health institution and another two-and-half years in prison.

She died in the company of friends and family after announcing on Facebook just two hours earlier: “I am finally dying today.”

In recent years, Miss Brouwers had become a prominent campaigner in the Netherlands for euthanasia for the mentally-ill and the young.

She had pressed Dutch MPs to further liberalise a 16-year-old law already seen as one of the most permissive in the world.

“Regarding euthanasia, I think everyone should have the chances I have” she said in her blog.

She also spoke vividly about how she was preparing for her death on Friday January 26 after she was given permission on December 31.

She declared that “there is no muscle in my body” that doubted her decision to end her life by lethal injection.

“I only want to go one way and have strived for that for eight years and that is death,” Miss Brouwers said.

Her death purely for mental health reasons was met with shock by MPs and peers in Britain, however.

Lord Carlile, the co-chairman of Living and Dying Well, a parliamentary group opposed to euthanasia, said: “I am horrified.”

“This is a case which illustrates the grave dangers presented by euthanasia and assisted dying,” he added.

“Doctors should not be implicated in it and I would be very surprised if British doctors considered it as falling within their ethical matrix.”

Fiona Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton and the chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said that one in four Britons “experience mental health problems at some time in their life”.

“What is then needed, as it was for this young woman, is treatment not termination,” she said.

“The tragedy of her situation shows why it would be so dangerous for us this country to heed the voices – few but shrill – of those calling for euthanasia to be legalised here.”

She continued: “On a personal level, it is tragic. On a political level, it is shameful. In the UK Parliament, two years ago, after listening particularly carefully to the concerns of healthcare professionals, disabled people and other vulnerable groups, MPs voted to strongly reject a move in the UK towards legalising euthanasia.

“Now, far from helping those with mental health problems to die, the UK Government is investing more money than ever in supporting those with mental health problems, and all parties are working together to remove the stigma around mental health problems and ensure that our healthcare and our society is better able to help anyone facing these challenges to live a full life.”

Euthanasia figures from Holland show that the number of mental health patients killed by lethal injection has quadrupled in just four years.

They include a 41-year-old alcoholic who said drink had turned his life into a “cocktail” of misery and a female victim of child sex abuse who claimed she was unable to live with the trauma of her ordeal.

Recent figures also show euthanasia deaths now exceed more than 6,000 cases annually, representing a leap of 50 per cent in five years.

Under Dutch law euthanasia and assisted suicide are technically illegal but are not punishable if doctors observe carefully defined criteria, supposed to act as safeguards.

These include a request for euthanasia made freely by a mentally competent adult who is suffering unbearably and hopelessly.

There also must be no realistic options to euthanasia and at least one other physician must be consulted before the procedure can go ahead.

Following the death, the case must then be reported to a review committee to ensure due diligence has been observed.

Critics argue, however, that the law allows euthanasia almost on demand – and increasingly for the demented and the mentally ill.

Last week a Dutch euthanasia regulator quit her post in protest at the killings of patients suffering from dementia.

Berna van Baarsen said she could not support “a major shift” in the interpretation of her country’s euthanasia law to endorse lethal injections for increasing numbers of dementia patients.

She follows in the footsteps of Professor Theo Boer, a regulator who stepped down in 2014 after he warned British parliamentarians not to follow the Dutch example.

Last year, police in Holland launched their first investigation into a euthanasia death after an elderly woman with dementia was drugged and pinned down while injected with lethal drugs against her will after allegedly consenting to doctor-assisted death years previously.

In neighbouring Belgium euthanasia has also been extended to wider categories of patient than originally intended when the practice was introduced there in 2003, a year after it was legalised in Holland.

Belgian nurses and social workers who specialise in treating dying patients are quitting their jobs because palliative care units are being turned into “houses of euthanasia”, one senior doctor has alleged.

Increasing numbers of hospital staff employed in the palliative care sector are abandoning their posts because they did not wish to be reduced to preparing “patients and their families for lethal injections”, according to Professor Benoit Beuselinck, a consultant oncologist of the Catholic University Hospitals of Leuven.

He said that after more than 15 years of legal euthanasia in Belgium “palliative care units are … at risk of becoming ‘houses of euthanasia’, which is the opposite of what they were meant to be”.

Prof Beuselinck said palliative care nurses found the demands for euthanasia an “impossible burden” and a “complete contradiction of their initial desire to administer genuine palliative care to terminally ill patients”.

“Some Belgian palliative care units that have opened their doors to patients requesting euthanasia have seen nurses and social workers leaving the unit because they were disappointed that they could no longer offer palliative care to their patients in an appropriate way,” he continued.

“They were upset that their function was reduced to preparing patients and their families for lethal injections.”

The comments of Prof Beuselinck came in an essay for a new book called Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium, co-edited by David Albert Jones of the Anscombe Centre with Chris Gastmans and Calum MacKellar.

 

(Photo by Simon Caldwell)