Affordable Access

deepdyve-link
Publisher Website

Do Doctors Differentiate Between Suicide and Physician-Assisted Death? A Qualitative Study into the Views of Psychiatrists and General Practitioners.

Authors
  • Pronk, Rosalie1, 2
  • Willems, Dick L3
  • van de Vathorst, Suzanne3, 4
  • 1 Department of General Practice, Medical Ethics Section, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam UMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. [email protected] , (Netherlands)
  • 2 Department of General Practice, Medical Ethics Section, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam UMC, Room J2-219, PO Box 22660, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. [email protected] , (Netherlands)
  • 3 Department of General Practice, Medical Ethics Section, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam UMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
  • 4 Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Culture Medicine and Psychiatry
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2021
Volume
45
Issue
2
Pages
268–281
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11013-020-09686-2
PMID: 32833142
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Physician-assisted death for patients suffering from psychiatric disorders is allowed in the Netherlands under certain circumstances. One of the central problems that arise with regard to this practice is the question of whether it is possible to distinguish between suicidality and a request for physician-assisted death. We set up this study to gain insight into how psychiatrists and general practitioners distinguish between suicidality and physician-assisted death. The data for this study were collected through qualitative interviews with 20 general practitioners and 17 psychiatrists in the Netherlands. From the interviews, we conclude that physicians distinguish three types of death wishes among patients suffering from psychiatric disorders: 'impulsive suicidality,' 'chronic suicidality,' and 'rational death wishes.' To discern between them they evaluate whether the death wish is seen as part of the psychopathology, whether it is consistent over time, and whether they consider it treatable. Some considered physician-assisted death an alternative to a 'rational suicide,' as this was perceived to be a more humane manner of death for the patient and their relatives. We argue that physician-assisted death can be justified also in some cases in which the death wish is part of the psychopathology, as the patient's suffering can be unbearable and irremediable. Physician-assisted death in these cases may remain the only option left to relieve the suffering.

Report this publication

Statistics

Seen <100 times