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Choosing death in depression: a commentary on ‘Treatment-resistant major depressive disorder and assisted dying’
  1. Matthew R Broome1,
  2. Angharad de Cates2
  1. 1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Matthew R Broome, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 4JX, UK; matthew.broome{at}

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Schuklenk and van de Vathorst's paper is a very welcome addition to the literature on the assisted dying debate and will be of great interest to clinicians working in the field of mental health.1 Many psychiatrists will have had patients who have asked them to allow them to die, to desist in their efforts to prevent their suicide, and one of us has had personal experience, outside of professional life, of being asked to aid in someone's attempt to end their life in the context of an episode of mood disorder. The person with depression asking professionals, friends and family members to aid them in ending their life is a very real phenomenon. In their discussion, Schuklenk and van de Vathorst's paper uses two principles that we endorse and add weight to their argument: namely, the reality of suffering in depression and the parity of mental and physical illness. Indeed, the case Schuklenk and van de Vathorst make is a strong one and our commentary will focus on the premise of the argument around choosing death and some empirical clarification about competence in depression and the nature of treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and its prognosis.

The conceptual concern we wish to discuss in relation to assisted dying, endorsed by the state and legislature, is not linked to any moral or religious concern, or even on grounds related to ‘slippery slope’ or ‘abuse’ arguments. Rather the worry is how one could operationalise decisions around assisted dying as based on competence and capacity and view such decisions as rational. I think this concern is not limited to depressive illness, but to all decisions regarding choosing non-existence. Schuklenk and van de Vathorst offer the following useful criteria to regulate assisted suicide:1

  • The patients …

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  • Contributors The paper is jointly authored with MRB writing the first draft and preparing final draft for submission.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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