First time mum/referee/ sleeve snot wiper to a wild toddler. Designated household bum changer. Blogging about this motherhood malarkey from a refreshingly honest and unfiltered perspective.

Should Mental Illness Be Considered Grounds For Euthanasia?

Should we consider allowing people suffering with severe Mental Health issues to be granted assistance in dying? Is it crossing a line? What real difference is there between physical and mental health that warrants a persons choice to chose their fate?

Currently, euthanasia is legal in The Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg, Columbia and Belgium. People suffering with long term, physical illness are granted the option to painlessly, end their lives with the help of a qualified doctor. 

There are a few different forms of euthanasia:
  • Active - this is when a person consciously and directly assists or causes the persons death, i.e by giving them an overdose of medication.
  • Passive - this is brought about by someone who, although, doesn't literally kill the person, lets them die by means of withdrawing treatment or withholding it. 
  • Voluntary - is at the request of the person wishing to die.
  • Involuntary - this occurs when the person is incapable or unable to make the decision and someone does so on their behalf (e.g a young child, someone in a coma).

When I think of someone choosing euthanasia, I picture, after much suffering, they have succumbed to a long fight with a trying terminal illness. 
We think of the person who has had a endless battle with Cancer and is now ready to be at peace. They are tired and want to end their life, on their terms, how they wish.
They are set in their decision. They are ready. 

It seems, when we are aware, when we can physically see an illness, a reason for somebody's pain, we understand it. We empathize more because it's written all over them. We can play witness to their suffering. We grasp their beat expressions, clumps of hair loss, how weak and frail they begin to feel. If we can see their life has become unbearable, when simple everyday tasks has become too much of a struggle, when it's physical and visible, it's as though we would more readily accept the choice of the euthanasia route.

However, how does this play out in terms of those tormented by an invisible plague? A disease of the mind? Can we class this as the similar kind of turmoil a cancer patient experiences physically? Would it, can it be considered the same? 
Is Mental Health a plausible reason for assisted dying?

It sparks a topic for debate. It's a tough and extremely complicated one and I think there will be very split, contrast views on the subject. It's something that couldn't be categorized to a specific demographic of age, or sex, or creed. Every individual is so unique, a circumstance never the same as another. I fully support peoples right to choose euthanasia, to conclude their own final chapter and their decision should be final and respected. Although, I do think it's something that shouldn't be 'easily' accessible. 

In my opinion, I can see this from two respects:

I could fully sympathize someone wishing to end their life actively through an option like being euthanized. Mental Illness for many people (and myself included) doesn't simply end. There isn't always a successful pill or magic quick fix. It doesn't just 'get better' one day. It's always there, some days more difficult than others. It's more about management of mental illness as opposed to 'curing' it. 

Some people gulp all the medication promising sunshine and serotonin. They will willingly accept and access all versions of help available from CBT to group therapy. They will struggle through the side effects of different happy pills and shifting doses but, in the end, to no avail. 

The choice to do so through euthanasia is understandable. Suicide is brutal, sometimes unsuccessful. A frantic attempt to end their anguish suddenly. It's painful, done out of hopelessness and can be very hard hitting for loved ones.
In a way sensible. Euthanasia is planned. No erratic measures, no desperate cry for help. A calm and controlled environment. The option to discuss, to seek counsel, and think it through with the right support in place (which for many, might be all they really need - to be heard).

I one hundred and ten percent completely fathom their desperation to escape the prison they feel caged within, a bleak hell. I could fully empathize with a man, who after 26 years of being debilitated by crippling anxiety, who had exhausted every means to control it but found his attempts futile, would wish to end his life, to long for peace from his tomb of chaos. His day to day, unbearable, and overwhelming, isolating and despairing.
I could sympathize with the woman whose depression had consumed her to the point of merely existing. Whose pain was too great to bare anymore. 

I get it! I have struggled with mental illness for nearly 12 years. I have felt ridden in that bleak swamp. I have felt cradled by that familiar sadness. I've experienced the despair, the suffocation of simply breathing.

However, I have also seen the other side. Had I succeeded in ending my life, I would not have had my  boisterous, wonderful Son. I wouldn't have witnessed his first stumbled steps or embraced his smothering cuddles. I wouldn't have savoured the taste of a new rum or encountered some of the people I have. I wouldn't have experienced love again and again.
There are bad days, sure. But for every bad day, there is a good moment that sneaks through as a reminder that it can be better than how it appears.

People have sunk lower than rock bottom and risen to the stars. As another example, a young man at just 18 years old swarmed in the black fog of clinical depression, might see no other way out, after many years of battling his low moods, but is just clouded by his feelings to even fathom a better life. The simple concept of happiness may seem unreachable because he is yet to experience it.

The thing with pain is that it does lessen. Feelings become less intense from the minute you first feel until it slowly dissipates.  When I experience a panic attack, in the beginning, it is pure and utter dread, so overbearing I can't think straight. I'm going to die, I can't breathe. But, as the minutes (drag) past, the feelings become less intense, more bearable until they slowly merge into a distant hum in the back of my mind.

So, should being euthanized remain limited to physical and terminal illness only? Or should we take into the account those afflicted by Mental Health Issues? What are your thoughts? Is this even something that could be considered or is it simply, unthinkable?

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