Today I read a story it was the story of a young woman from Holland twenty nine year old Aurelia Brouwers. Aurelia had struggled with mental health problems for most of her life her difficulties ranged from depression and anxiety to psychosis and she had made the decision she did not want to live anymore so she applied for the right to die via euthanasia and was accepted to do so. Naturally the decision to allow someone to die due to a psychiatric condition is seen as controversial and has split opinions across the board as to whether mental illness is acceptable grounds for euthanasia. Even though this case isn’t a first in the Netherlands, according the report I read on the BBC news website there were 83 cases of euthanasia due to mental illness in 2017 alone.
There was one particular question raised in the article against the acceptance for euthanasia under these terms which was, is the desire to die a genuine desire or a symptom of the persons condition? Rendering the persons desire incompetent. This really got me thinking as I have suicidal thoughts myself almost daily and have acted upon these thoughts in the past. But I’m not literally wanting to die 100% of the time I do have small windows of hope some days and I have days where I feel a little manic and think “fuck my mind I’m a little looped but so what I’ll embrace it”. Unfortunately those feelings don’t last long but still I do have moments when I’m ok with life. So does that mean my feeling suicidal is a symptom of my illness? Well I don’t know I’ve never even considered it before today.
Reading Aurelia’s story though I’m split, I get the feeling that her decision was a competent one and she had made a rational decision to die. Some of the statements she made make it clear how she felt about life. The problem I have though is that I to can relate to a lot of what she said for example “I’m stuck in my own body, my own head, and I just want to be free” and “I have never been happy – I don’t know the concept of happiness.” These two statements in particular resonate with me as I often feel and say things like this myself and mean it to, to me happiness is a concept I don’t feel. I do have times I feel joy and pleasure but for me happiness isn’t a feeling it’s a state of being and I just don’t have a sense of being happy. I’m not saying I never will though because when I have good days I have some optimism and that’s where the problem lies for me Aurelia was only 29 so she was younger than me. How could she know absolutely that her state of mind would never improve at all even if to only feeling content with life. So is it right for the people responsible for making the decision to grant the right to die to conceive that her life held no possibility for improvement? Even though she did! I don’t know to be honest. Though apparently in order to be granted permission to die one has to have first exhausted all possible avenues of treatment that may improve their quality of life. Even then it seems the decision isn’t taken lightly as only 10% off applicants with mental illness were granted the permission to die in 2017. Proving that there is at least some degree of restraint preventing people from making poor decisions out of desperation.
As I’m sat here writing this I keep drifting into deep states of thought and pondering the question is the desire to die a symptom of illness? and should someone with mental health problems be allowed to choose to die? Firstly I suppose if I have times when I don’t want to die then I would have to conceive that for me feeling suicidal probably is a symptom of my illness. If it wasn’t then I would want to die 100% of the time. But what if somebody does want to die all the time? And how long would someone have to want to die before its no longer a symptom of an illness? There are just so many variables that I’m not sure, for me this is such a complex question that I don’t think there is a definitive correct answer that’s relevant for all people. Whether a person should be allowed to die or not I would have to say yes in some circumstances. If only because I don’t believe anybody but the individual should have control of their own fate. Plus if a person is adamant they want to die its surly better for them to do so in a safe situation that is controlled and painless rather than the possibility of say hanging yourself that may be painful or could go wrong and possibly just leave the person brain dead or something similar. So ultimately like the law in Holland I believe that a person should be allowed to die if they really want to providing they have exhausted all possible treatments that might improve their life and the concerns of loved ones have been considered.
As for Aurelia’s case though I just hope her decision was the right one for her and where ever she is now she’s found peace and is no longer suffering and her family and loved ones are ok.