Concerning psychiatric patients, the possibility of euthanasia gives rise to many ethical and juridical concerns regarding the adequate assessment and evaluation of all legal and due care criteria. E.g. the key criterion unbearable psychological suffering is still insufficiently understood. Given this wide range of fundamental concerns, it is striking that the euthanasia practice in psychiatric patients has only been studied superficially.
Fifteen years since the Belgian Act on Euthanasia came into effect, the practice remains a highly controversial issue and poorly understood particularly when it concerns psychiatric patients, whose death requests penetrate the core problems related to the euthanasia law.
The overarching objectives of this FWO PhD Fellowship project are to establish a thorough scientific understanding of (a) euthanasia practice and consultation in psychiatric patients, (b) the risk and protective factors for patients requesting euthanasia, and (c) the meaning and impact of the (management of) euthanasia requests.
The methodology will consist of (1) quantitative registration studies at Flemish end-of-life consultation centres, (2) a quantitative survey that maps the nature and extent of unbearable suffering (key criterion in granting euthanasia requests), and (3) a qualitative interview study with involved psychiatric patients as well as physicians experienced in handling such euthanasia requests.
In doing this, the study will contribute towards improving the quality, uniformity and transparency of care and procedures for this extremely vulnerable patient group.