The YouTuber documenting her bid to kill herself: Mentally ill French woman, 23, with 40 different personalities fights to be euthanised in Belgium… but doctors say they are not ‘suicide dispensers’
- Woman with personality disorder seeks assisted suicide, sparking backlash
- Doctor resists ‘death ward’ label for Belgium as French lobby for euthanasia
- Follows controversial euthanasia of woman, 23, in 2022 citing mental health
- For help or support, visit samaritans.org or call Samaritans for free on 116 123
A Belgian doctor said his country is not a ‘death ward’ for the French after a YouTuber suffering from a personality disorder came forward for help with an assisted suicide.
With assisted suicide and euthanasia still illegal across much of Europe, YouTuber Olympe’s story has inspired debate around the contentious issue.
Belgian doctor Yves de Locht urged that clinics were not ‘euthanasia dispensers’, with long processes and options fully explored before patients were able to access assisted dying.
This follows the controversial death of another 23-year-old suffering with mental health issues who chose to end her life in Belgium last year.
Olympe said she would radically change her content following negative attention online
What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
‘DID’, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is a condition resulting in the presence of two or more distinct and ‘relatively enduring’ personalities in its sufferer.
The condition is seen among around 1.5% of the general population and is the result of repeated or long-term childhood trauma.
90% of those with DID have a history of abuse and neglect.
The condition develops in early childhood, before the brain can develop a single, integrated identity.
Treatment ordinarily involves the treatment of symptoms (‘palliative’ therapy) and psychotherapy. Without medical treatment, it is rare that the condition abates on its own.
Diagnoses of the disorder have increased dramatically in recent years in part due to the development of more diagnostic tests in the field of psychology and new techniques to image brain tissue.
The condition is often deeply distressing for its sufferers. More than 70% of people with the condition attempt suicide attempt once.
Olympe initially said in a post on Instagram, ‘in the last quarter of 2023 I will have recourse to assisted suicide in Belgium.
‘I am already in contact with the doctors.’
She added: ‘It’s not a debate. It’s my life. It’s a decision that I made which was difficult to take.’
But the Brussels doctor de Locht, who was reportedly approached by Olympe, dismissed the claims that talks had progressed in an interview with Le Parisien.
He said that the process could take months or years, and said that Belgium was tired of being coloured as a ‘death ward’ for France, where assisted suicide is illegal.
The young YouTuber has since stressed she does not wish to set an ‘example’ for young people, and urges those with dark thoughts to ‘find people around them to lean on’.
Euthanasia – withdrawing or with-holding life-preserving treatments – is legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain.
Assisted suicide – giving the patient the means to end their own life – is illegal across most of Europe.
While Switzerland permits assisted suicide, active euthanasia is not legal.
While illegal in France, a citizens’ council has begun debating the country’s approach to end of life care generally and the legal status of assisted suicide.
Recommendations will be presented to parliament in March this year.
In the United Kingdom, the act of assisting somebody else in taking their life is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
YouTuber Olympe spoke candidly to her followers on Instagram earlier this month
Assisted suicide presents many ethical complications in defining a ‘rational suicide’.
The scientific community is somewhat divided.
48.6% of psychiatrists surveyed in 2019 did not support access to assisted suicide for persons diagnosed with severe and persisted mental illness.
Nearly a third did support some degree of access, and just over 20% were neutral on the issue.
The authors said there was an increasing number of psychiatric patients seeking assisted suicide.
A 1994 paper concluded the availability of assisted suicide may lead to increased rates of suicide in the general population, especially among young people, due to copycat behaviour and destigmatisation.
Authors of a paper last year highlighted the importance of assessing decision-making capacity when considering assisted dying.
This could be complicated by underlying mental health conditions.
Last year, Shanti De Corte, also 23, chose to end her life in Belgium, citing ‘unbearable’ mental distress.
Corte suffered trauma as a witness of the ISIS attack on Brussels Airport in 2016.
After pursuing psychiatric treatment and medication, she chose to end her life in May 2022.
A neurologist later said the decision was premature, with options not yet fully explored, but claimed he was overruled by the woman’s mother.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.