Psychiatric Euthanasia

In the Netherlands, the same legal demands are made of euthanasia for psychiatric patients as those made for people suffering from a physical disease. The patient must be subject to unbearable and hopeless suffering and there should be no other reasonable recourse. The issue with psychiatric patients is that further treatment is always available and that it is harder to determine if a patient is of sound mind.

The first psychiatric patient who received assisted suicide was a woman with mysophobia. Psychiatrist Gerty Casteelen explains that she slowly started to understand the patient’s desire to commit euthanasia. “I couldn’t understand it at first. It was a long process. I came to understand that her fears completely controlled her life. All she could do was clean. It was impossible for the patient to maintain a relationship. Her whole development stalled.” 

Another patient who received euthanasia was a healthy 63 year-old man. He worked for a governmental organisation and all he did was work. He had never been on holiday. He also used to do volunteer work in his free time. Now, due to his age, he was close to retirement and wanted to die. He managed to convince me that it was impossible for him to go on. He was all alone in the world. He’d never had a partner. He did have family but he was not in touch with them. It was almost like he’d never developed as a person. It sounds bizarre when I put it like that. He functions well at work. His colleagues love him.

It Doesn’t Stop

Nowadays, we also can change our environment. Some West African populations cut clearings in the rain forest to cultivate yams; as a result of more standing water, more malaria-carrying mosquitoes bread; malaria, in turn, increased the frequency of the gene for sickle cell anemia in the population, because this gene offers protection against malaria. So cutting down trees resulted in more people having sickle cell anemia. When we modify our environment, these modifications can bounce back to influence our biology and psychology. [The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art (2013), Anjan Chatterjee]

Relative Position

We are social creatures; our satisfaction is largely determined by how we stack up relative to others. People make seemingly irrational choices when given the following two scenarios. Imagine being in line, with a chance of receiving cash when you reach a counter. In one scenario, you get $100. In another, you get $150 but the person ahead of you gets $1000. Most people prefer to be in the first scenario even though they end up with less money than in the second one. Once our basic needs are met, we care more about our relative position in a group than in some absolute measure of our reward. [The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art (2013), Anjan Chatterjee]

Peak Shift

Junk food capitalizes on our evolutionary predispositions for sugar and fat. It works using the peak shift principle, that is, take a stimulus that produces a certain response and then exaggerate its critical features to exaggerate the response. [The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art (2013), Anjan Chatterjee]
Nicole Coco Austin