Aurelia’s last 26 Days – Film
Aurelia is 29 and will die soon. Because it is her decision.
In the Netherlands, where Aurelia lives, euthanasia is allowed since 2002. Every year several thousand people end their lives there legally supported from a doctor, because their pain is unbearable and there is no chance for recovery.
When is the suffering too much to live on?
Aurelia is physically healthy, she is still able to live on for a long time. But she suffers from serious mental illnesses. Aurelia has (among other chronic diseases) borderline, depressions, various anxiety disorders, eating disorders. She puts glass into her body, squeezes cigarettes on her arms and sprays deodorant in her eyes. Since she was 21 she tried to commit suicide several times. She says, „In my head is a monster that sticks me with a hundred knives.“ She tried to fight against her illnesses many years. She made all possible treatments and therapies. But the monster is growing more and more. She says, „I would love to live, but I want to end my suffering! The only way to reach this point for me is to die.“
Although euthanasia is legal for mentally ill people in the Netherlands, doctors allow it just in a few cases. Aurelia says, „It’s my life, my pain, my decision, my death. If people with cancer are allowed to die, why not me, too?“ She describes her illness as invisible cancer. She had been fighting for her permission to die already for eight years.
In the media suicide is reported just in few cases, for a good reason: to prevent further suicides. Aurelia says she does not want people trigger to kill themselves. She wants that those, who really want to end their lives because of suffering, get the chance to die self-determined and supported by a doctor. Not alone, not after a self-mixed overdose, not after a jump in front of a train, not after a jump from a high building. But at home, in their own bed and surrounded by their loved ones and in dignity.
In the Netherlands the Levenseindekliniek (end-of-life-clinic) sends mobile teams to provide ambulatory euthanasia. It is not easy for mentally ill patients to get euthanasia. Aurelia has applied there for the permission to die. At first in 2012, she was rejected because she had not tried all possible options of treatment yet. She talked to doctors and psychologists, filled in forms and took medical records. And she goes public. What is the difference between an incurably ill patient, who can no longer endure the pain of his physical illness, and an incurably ill patient who can no longer endure the pain of his mental illness? Aurelia has a mission, she blogs, posts, tweets. She wants to tell her story, to create awareness and hopes to get more understanding for euthanasia for mentally ill patients.
On the 31th of December 2017, Aurelia receives a phone call from the clinic: she is allowed to die, in 26 days.
The doctors of the euthanasia clinic have certified that Aurelia`s fight for healing is without any prospect of success. Is this a scandal? Or is it time to talk about the matter that also mentally ill people can reach the point where their suffering is unbearable, and it should more ethical to help them ending their lifes in order to relieve their pain and suffering? Not everyone with the wish for euthanasia receive it, even if most critics fear it: the majority is rejected. In the clinic, which granted Aurelia`s application, 614 of the 679 applications of mentally ill people were denied in 2017.
I accompanied Aurelia during her last weeks until her death.