Last May a 23-year-old Flemish girl was granted legal euthanasia on the grounds that ‘she was in a medically futile condition of mental suffering.’ Shanti De Corte died surrounded by her family including her mother, who supported her decision. She had suffered serious psychological issues in her teens, but the real trigger was the terrorist bomb attack at Brussels airport in 2016, when she had been only a few metres away from the blast. After that, though she had not been physically injured, she found life unbearable. She attempted suicide in 2020. The antidepressants she took made her ‘feel like a ghost who doesn’t feel anything anymore.’ She made her request for euthanasia last year.
The disturbing aspect of this tragic story is that in 2013 a study of 19 male soldiers who had suffered blast injury revealed that two of them had suffered growth hormone deficiency. (This is one of several similar studies). The blast had affected the fragile pituitary gland, damaging its ability to make vital hormones. The study ended ‘We recommend that all patients with moderate to severe bTBI [blast traumatic brain injury] should routinely have comprehensive assessment of endocrine function.’
Did Shanti have growth hormone deficiency? As a charity, we have first hand evidence that GHD makes people want to kill themselves. Giving them GH replacement miraculously makes them find life worth living again. Maybe Shanti could have been saved.
It would be a comfort to know that she was given ‘comprehensive assessment of endocrine function’ after her exposure to the bomb, and that the possibility of GHD was excluded. I wish we could be sure.
Baxter D et al, Pituitary Dysfunction after Blast Traumatic Brain Injury: The UK BIOSAP Study, Ann Neurol 2013
Wilkinson CW et al, High Prevalence of Chronic Pituitary and Target-Organ Hormone Abnormalities after Blast-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Front Neurol. 2012; 3: 11.