Waiting for death: an analysis of the waiting list of the expertise centre for euthanasia
Background The waiting list of the expertise center euthanasia (EE) in the Netherlands for patients requesting euthanasia on the basis of psychiatric suffering has increased to two years in a short space of time.
Aim Clarity about the causes and direct consequences of the EE waiting list and an answer to the question: what now?
Method We analyzed the EE waiting list based on various media reports, annual reports from the EE and scientific studies.
Results The EE waiting list arose because, on the one hand, the demand for euthanasia among patients with a mental illness has increased, while on the other hand, the willingness to perform euthanasia among psychiatrists appears to be declining. The reasons for both trends seem multifactorial. The direct consequence of the waiting list is that patients with a mental illness have less access to euthanasia, which in itself can also have harmful and protective consequences.
Conclusion The EE waiting list is the result of an increasing number of requests and an apparent decrease in psychiatrists’ willingness to perform euthanasia. In response to this situation, roughly three ways forward are conceivable: first the mental health care sector can assign itself a more active role in the field of euthanasia, second a further demedicalisation of the end of life is possible, or third a choice can be an amendment to EE’s referral procedure. All of these options have potential pros and cons