Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Discussion of 'Treatment resistant depression and assisted dying'

Readers of this blog might recall that Suzanne van de Vathorst and I published a paper in the Journal of medical ethics arguing for the desirability to make assisted dying available to competent treatment resistant depressed people. There has been a bunch of responses, namely this and this and this and this and this to which we responded here. Since then Frank Miller also offered a thoughtful commentary here to which we responded here.

Today a website dedicated to mental health issues has published a lengthy summary of the debate in the hope of triggering a discussion about our analysis and those of our critics.

Check it out when you have a minute, well worth reading.


  1. I read “Treatment Resistant Depression and Assisted Dying” and was struck by this sentence:

    “The system in Holland requires three doctors to be involved in the decision-making process for people with mental health problems requesting AD, but one imagines that even given this, the emotional strain experienced by the physicians involved would be considerable, and this is not an angle considered in the paper or in the subsequent commentaries and responses.”

    Why is “the emotional strain experienced by the physicians involved” a consideration, and why would van de Vathorst and Schuklenk consider it in a paper that argues for assisted dying for competent patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression?

    I notice in many arguments against AD emphasize the emotional strain experienced by everyone else involved instead of the physical and emotional strain experienced by the person most in need of AD.

    Maybe, Justin Trudeau is concerned with the emotional strain on him and his government, so he is asking for at least an additional six months to come up with new laws around doctor-assisted suicide.

  2. I am one of these people with treatment resistant depression who has suffered with an overwhelming pain nearly every single day, from morning until evening for 10 years. I have tried medications, physical, cognitive and spiritual therapies. I have not felt any happiness. If a doctor is not comfortable being part of the process then he or she can opt out. It is about competent people having the freedom to make their own choices, as professionals and rational human beings. . Why should religious groups or anyone else take that choice away from people? It's cruel. Imagine trying and trying without anything every changing, just feelings of suicide and sadness every day, it is absolute torture. It is not like this is a for profit health service where anyone stands to gain from. This is about compassion.


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