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Psychiatric euthanasia and the ontology of mental disorder

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/02/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)136-154
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date6/09/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In the Netherlands and Belgium, it is lawful for voluntary euthanasia to be offered on the grounds of psychiatric suffering. A recent case that has sparked much debate is that of Aurelia Brouwers, who was helped to die in the Netherlands on account of her suffering from borderline personality disorder. It is sometimes claimed that whether or not a mentally ill person’s wish to die is valid hinges on whether or not that wish is a symptom of the person’s mental disorder. This article addresses the philosophical problems raised by this claim, with a specific focus on the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. After considering descriptivist and causal conceptualizations of mental disorder, I argue that the current approach to borderline personality disorder in psychiatry precludes the possibility of dissociating the wish to die from the disorder. I then examine the implications of this analysis for the question of whether or not the request for voluntary euthanasia in the case of borderline personality disorder can be considered valid. Ultimately, I conclude that the inability to dissociate the wish to die from the disorder does not invalidate the wish in the case of borderline personality disorder.