Good Grief! Defining the Normal as the “Disordered” Raises Euthanasia Risk.

Psychiatrists have recently met to revise their most important diagnostic tool, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). One of the “new” disorders under consideration in the Manual’s newest edition, DSM 5, is grief.

Grief includes aspects of yearning after, longing for and missing whatever or whoever has been lost. Grieving people would expect to feel sad, lose sleep, lack appetite and have reduced energy and interest. These would be turned into the symptoms of a disease under proposed changes in DSM 5, which is administered by the American Psychiatrists Association..

Some reports suggest that Grief is to declared a disorder itself if it continues over a year. Others suggest that having had recent reason to grieve should exclude people diagnosed with a major depressive order, unless the grief persists for only two months.

Whatever the suggestion, risks associated with redefining grief as a psychological disorder are many and varied. For a start, it will allow psychiatrists to prescribe medicines to “treat” a natural reaction to loss, be that of a loved one or job, or the end of a relationship.

At its worst, however, diagnosing grief as a mental disorder would play right into the hands of those currently providing or advocating for legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Many pieces of legislation, and indeed laws currently operating do not require a person requesting euthanasia to be suffer a terminal illness. Grief that may appear insurmountable could be given as a reason for wanting to die. A redefinition of grief as a mental disorder would seem to lend legitimacy to such requests. People who are genuinely grieving require our concerted support, not to be hastily given the means to die as a solution.

The trend to make medical professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists, compliant in killing their patients instead of helping them, may be continued. The phenomenon of murder-suicide, in which some victims kill themselves, saying they would be unable to bear life without another, who was perhaps also suffering, is given credence by this new type of definition.

In fact, it is the inability to grieve properly that should be, and hopefully is recognised as a mental condition.

That grief is exacerbated by, or can precipitate, psychological disorders, cannot be denied. Some who grieve for a long time suffer from the effects of unresolved issues such as sexual abuse or long-term unhappiness in marriage. If improvements are made in recognising and addressing these, then the perceived need to hastily offer drastic solutions may be prevented.

In the meantime, the new edition of the DSM won’t be issued until 2013. Hopefully sense will prevail in the next two years!


About Daniel

I am a man with a disability living in Canberra, Australia. I'm passionate about the lives of people with disabilities - our joys, achievements, sorrows and setbacks. I want to encourage the people who support and love us, and stand firmly against obstacles placed in our way that may even threaten our very existence.
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7 Responses to Good Grief! Defining the Normal as the “Disordered” Raises Euthanasia Risk.

  1. Betty LeBlanc says:

    I am an RN…….worked in psychiatry for many years. Diagnosis is in itself disabling. It does nothing for the client except provide the meds with a pre determined format for prescribing medication and ‘treatment’. Grief is the easiest human experience to manipulate…….I too fear that people with the diagnosis will be easy targets for a quick death,

  2. In Oregon the severe restrictions for physician-assisted suicide include disallowing if depression is present. It is important to distinguish grief from a general depression. Let’s keep the faith that the worst case scenario will be prevented by the wisdom of faithful people such as yourself.

    • Daniel says:

      Just to be clear, there are actually some grave difficulties in how Oregon’s law operates, and we wouldn’t want to see a similar law enacted anywhere. A doctor in prescribing a lethal dose of medicine to someone undermines the very purpose of the medical profession – to cure, or alleviate suffering, not to kill. That doctor also loses any control of what actually happens to a lethal substance once it’s prescribed. This means the patient could be pressured by almost anyone to use the substance anytime to end their lives. No witnesses are required to the death. The law states that a person seeking to use it must have a diagnosis that he or she is likely to die within six months, but Annual Reports required under the Death With Dignity Act have shown that, in some cases, the substance was taken two years after the script was filled. Yes, it may make an attempt to screen out people with depression, but otherwise it’s a very bad piece of legislation for lots of reasons.

  3. Paul Russell says:

    Great post!
    It is becoming clear that these double suicides where one partner is not ill is about fear of experiencing grief and loneliness. There’s something seriously deficient in our society, but this is not the answer!

  4. Rina F. says:

    …that it’s a disorder if someone is grieving for more than a year? Anyone who has lost someone so dear knows that time numbs the pain but the pain is still there and yet,that will be a considered a disorder? I guess I have a “disorder” because it has been 6 years since I’ve lost someone dear to me and I’m more at peace about it now but it doesn’t make me miss her any less. Grieving is normal, and not a disorder. It does leave it wide open for opportunistic pro-death procedures.Two more years to challenge this proposal – prayers ascending for a better proposal. God bless.

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  6. Daniel says:

    At the end of 2011, the British Psychological Society (BPS) wrote a response to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), on the DSM-5 Development previsions and new inclusions the APA had proposed. All the BPS’s responses to individual new inclusions and revisions were prefixed with the following:

    “… we are concerned that clients and the general public are negatively affected by the continued and continuous medicalisation of their natural and normal responses to their experiences; responses which undoubtedly have distressing consequences which demand helping responses, but which do not reflect illnesses so much as normal individual variation.
    We believe that classifying these problems as ‘illnesses’ misses the relational context of problems and the undeniable social causation of many such problems. For psychologists, our well-being and mental health stem from our frameworks of understanding of the world, frameworks which are themselves the product of the experiences and learning through our lives.”

    Of the proposed “Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, the Society said:

    “These general concerns about the scientific validity and utility of diagnoses articulated above apply equally to the area of depressive disorders. We note that, in this context, sadness and unhappiness which are deserving of help and intervention – are not best considered illnesses. We also note that, by regarding them as such, there is a danger of misunderstanding their nature and cause and applying inappropriate medical remedies.”

    The Society noted for several proposed new diagnoses that “judgment of what is ‘disproportionate’ or ‘excessive’ is a subjective, value-laden, issue.” This obviously applies to existence and extent of physical and emotional pain, among other things, and cuts right to the heart of the issue of whether suffering is ever “hopeless and unbearable”

    DSM 5 being a document that all Psychologists use, these concerns are likely to be experienced globally.

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