March 5, 2024

Dutch health minister wants to clear backlog of requests for euthanasia for mental health reasons

In a report to the Dutch Parliament in late September, the Dutch Minister for Health, Ernst Kuipers, discussed problems with a backlog of euthanasia requests by people with mental health issues, including dementia.

Since 2010, the number of euthanasia cases for mental suffering has increased. In 2021, there were 115 deaths, representing 1.5% of all euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands.

In most of those cases (83 out of 115), the euthanasia was performed by a doctor affiliated with the Euthanasia Expertise Centre, (EE), rather than by the treating psychiatrist.

However, the number of these requests received by EE has risen so much that there is a two-year-long waiting list, says the Minister.

While most Dutch psychiatrists support the idea of euthanasia for psychological suffering, many do not want to get involved themselves.

Kuipers says that happens because psychiatrists very rarely have to deal with a euthanasia request and have very little experience in it. EE claims that many patients are referred to them because the psychiatrist did not consider himself competent to make the assessment or perform the euthanasia.

Kuipers concludes that it is against this background that the policy vision of providing timely and appropriate care to people who, because of their psychological suffering request euthanasia, must be fulfilled.

“People with a persistent euthanasia request on psychological grounds should be able to count on help at the right time, in the right place and preferably without a (long) wait,” he says.