THE case of Aurelia Brouwers has been back in the news recently, as debate continues about the decision to grant the 29-year-old the right to euthanasia – despite not being terminally ill.

It was in January this year that Brouwers took her final breaths in Holland, where euthanasia is legal. Only a month or so before, she received the news that her request to die had been granted. It’s reported that she died clutching a toy dinosaur, with some close friends around her.

There’s no doubt that Brouwers suffered in her life. She had experienced prolonged psychiatric problems, and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, as well as forms of depression and psychosis. She’d spent a lengthy period in a psychiatric hospital and tried multiple treatments.

It’s clear that she felt there was no hope left for her. She spoke of the pain she was in and how difficult her life was. Indeed, she even documented her journey on social media, and posted in the days leading up to her death.

I feel great sympathy for Brouwers and the situation she was in. With a condition so severe, I dread to imagine how difficult every hour of every day must have become. But with that said, I’m utterly appalled that authorities ever believed it was appropriate to grant someone with serious psychiatric problems the assistance to end her own life. This is incredibly dangerous.

Euthanasia is a difficult subject to grapple with at the best of times. It’s hard to offer an adequate rebuttal to the argument that a terminally ill person should have the right to decide when and how they die. This is uncomfortable ground for us to think about it.

My main reservations about legalising euthanasia in any form is shared by many others: how can we be guaranteed that the law won’t be abused or manipulated? Who decides who is competent enough to make these decisions?

The other great fear is that the law may serve to underpin a wider, darker belief that some people are expendable; that those with physical disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health problems cannot have a quality of life adequate enough to justify keeping them alive. Arguments against euthanasia are not rooted in heartlessness, they come from a concern that such laws become tools for those who chase fantasies of a master race and human perfection.

This is why Brouwers’ case is so troubling. Suicidal tendencies are a symptom of mental health problems. It is absurd that authorities in this situation effectively validated insanity as a form of clear, rational decision making. Brouwers may have been experiencing a deeply intense phase of her illness when she died, but she was only 29, with further treatment and time life could have been very different in the future.

People who have survived suicide attempts often speak of an inability to see a future during their time of crisis, and of a sense of complete, overwhelming hopelessness. In mental health awareness campaigns, the message tries to counter those feelings: no matter how difficult it is to see through the cloud, things can be better and life – every life – is valued and worth living.

Brouwers’ death throws all of that into confusion. It says to anyone having those thoughts that they might be right. It tells them that authorities – even some psychiatrists, astonishingly – agree that some people just aren’t treatable, that there’s only so many treatments out there and, after that, it’s acceptable to lay down and drink poison instead.

What it also does is offer a sense of vindication to euthanasia sceptics like me. I’ve often wondered if I’m overthinking the risks and imagining scenarios unlikely ever to appear. This case tells me that I was right to be frightened about how even the best-intentioned, apparently humanitarian of laws, can become monsters.

Vulnerable people are at risk, and our priorities must always be with protecting them. It’s terrifying to think of what will be ahead of us if we lose sight of that.

For support and information, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.


OFCOM figures this week suggested that hit TV show Friends is beating modern releases as the nation’s favourite programme for online streaming. The sitcom was added to Netflix earlier this year, as well as continuing daily broadcasts on satellite TV, and it appears to be as popular as ever.

As a self-confessed, non-apologetic Friends addict, I’m delighted to know there are others out there like me.

Why it is so watchable I still don’t know, but I’ve yet to become bored of the trials and tribulations of Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross. TV lovers have been spoiled by the investment in recent years into binge-watch telly, but few programmes with the staying power of Friends ever come along.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I did get "the Rachel" haircut when I was a teenager ...