Documentary subject’s diagnosis appears wrong


Re: “Asperger’s syndrome falsely vilified,” letter, Oct. 12.

The writer, in his excellent letter on the CBC documentary Road to Mercy, expressed legitimate dismay that 32-year-old Amy De Schutter, with a psychiatric diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, is applying for physician-assisted death in Belgium.

Firstly, it is obvious that she does not have the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. Rather, in my professional opinion, this young woman suffers from severe mental illness in the form of undiagnosed bipolar disorder, with its typical highs and lows, and it would appear that she has not received even marginally competent psychiatric care. Also, had De Schutter been correctly diagnosed, there is no guarantee that she would have been treated appropriately with mood-stabilizing medications.

Patients like De Schutter are doomed to lifelong symptomatic mental illness unless they receive adequate psychiatric assessment and treatment. They might then end up requesting physician-assisted death because of recurrent depression. To consider such a request from a mentally ill individual who has received incompetent psychiatric care is unconscionable.

After having the privilege of trying to help more than 8,000 patients and their loved ones over 35 years practising psychiatry, I have no doubt that it would be ethically wrong to consider physician-assisted death for a person with an eminently treatable mental illness.

Dr. Carl Stovel

Retired psychiatrist


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