October 14, 2023
Psychiatric Suffering & Euthanasia
A week after granting euthanasia to 31-year-old David Mulder, who suffered psychologically for years, Dutch psychiatrist Menno Oosterhoff, is inundated with requests for help.
Oosterhoff has recently set up the KEA Foundation to support people suffering from mental suffering in their request for euthanasia.
In Villa VdB, he argues for a new perspective on euthanasia and shares some of the harrowing stories he receives.
In an interview aired Wednesday night on the TV programme Khalid & Sophie, David Mulder (31) shared his painful story: “I actually have a kind of uncanny feeling inside non-stop all my life. I don’t want to be in this world. I can’t enjoy it.”
The interview caused a lot of response, says psychiatrist Menno Oosterhoff.
He assisted David and looks back on the interview David gave:
“A lot of people reacted very positively, because the problem was made discussable.
But I also received many messages from desperate people who don’t know where to turn.”
The psychiatrist got emotional people on the phone: “We had kind of anticipated these reactions, but having really crying people on the phone is something else.”
For example, Oosterhoff got a 21-year-old girl on the phone who had been in treatment for eight years.
“She told me: ‘It doesn’t help anything, I can’t do anything anymore, I’m exhausted. I have to fight every day to end it, but I want to leave life in a humane way. Can you please do something for me?’
Ten minutes later, I had an email from her mother, who was also begging for help for her. It is really poignant what you hear.”
Education and peer contact
Oosterhoff stresses the importance of the new foundation: “It is not only a foundation for doctors, but also focused on education and peer contact.
The foundation has only just opened its doors and does not yet have a website, but the intention is to eventually mobilise willingness among doctors and mediate euthanasia requests.”
We cannot dismiss this or shuffle it off to the centre of expertise. We have to work on it says psychiatrist Menno Oosterhoff
More than two years of waiting time
Waiting times for the Euthanasia Expertise Centre (where they check whether a euthanasia request is justified) are long: “I think there are something like two, three hundred people on the waiting list.
And these are not people who have called impulsively, but really people who have been screened and need to be examined.
The waiting time can be more than two years.”
Oosterhoff would prefer that people would not have to knock on the centre’s door, but could go to their own psychiatrist or GP with their euthanasia request: “But they very often refer to the centre of expertise.”
Oosterhoff has not yet made an official call to psychiatrists to join the foundation, but he already noticed interest in the profession.
“The other day at a congress, a number of psychiatrists reported afterwards that they were willing to do second opinions. I think when we make the official call more people will come forward,” says the psychiatrist.
Oosterhoff also stresses the need to take action to address the problems in the mental health sector.
“It is important to work on better implementation of existing guidelines for euthanasia in mental suffering and to create more awareness about the need for change.”