February 23, 2024

Why discriminate with euthanasia?

An Australian academic recently argued that denying euthanasia to the mentally ill could be a form of unjust discrimination.

An Australian academic has prompted spirited debate after suggesting that denying euthanasia to the mentally ill could be a form of unjust discrimination. 

In a recent article in The Conversation, Dr Sascha Callaghan of the University of New South Wales suggested that mental illness in itself may be insufficient grounds to deny an individual euthanasia: 

“The idea that euthanasia should not be offered for mental suffering is not universally agreed, and requires some further consideration… too stringent an approach risks locking people with mental illnesses out of the right to make decisions about the end of their lives – and this might be discriminatory.”

Callaghan referred to a case in the UK in 2012 in which a court ruled that an anorexic woman be force-fed despite her request that the treatment stop. “The implication of the decision was that, by definition, people with anorexia cannot make an end-of-life decision, no matter how harrowing and intractable their illness becomes.”

Whilst not committing to a particular viewpoint on the issue, Callaghan concludes that “certainly there are a range of defensible views on what is a good life and when assisted dying is acceptable.”

The Australian Medical Association recently suspended the medical license of euthanasia advocate Phillip Nitzchke, after he failed to dissuade a mentally ill man, 45-year-old Nigel Brayley, from taking his own life with a lethal barbiturate. 

Why discriminate with euthanasia?
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
mental illness