Best columns: Europe
Mental illness doesn’t cause terrorism
The French government wants to enlist the nation’s psychiatrists in the war on terror, said Emmanuel Hirsch. Interior Minister Gérard Collomb was outraged at the news that a man who rammed his van into two bus shelters in Marseille last month, killing one person, had just been released from a psychiatric hospital. Now Collomb is claiming that one-third of those on France’s terrorist watch list have “psychological problems,” and he says that doctors should “identify the kinds of personalities that could potentially take extreme action.” As a professor of medical ethics, let me just say that’s preposterous. Certainly there is a psychological component to any person’s decision to commit violence. Yet there’s no “particular marker” that when seen in a patient should send doctors running to the police. Medical practitioners already have a duty to report anyone who is an imminent danger to the public. But the vast majority of mental health patients are not a threat, and because they are vulnerable, society has an obligation to treat them with particular care. What alarms me most is that the government’s attempt to turn psychiatrists into counterterrorism assets has been conducted in such a hasty, uncoordinated, and seemingly desperate manner. Is this “evidence of deficiencies in our intelligence system?”
Fertility treatment for all
The Irish love big families, so why is Ireland one of the few European Union countries that doesn’t regulate and fund fertility treatments? asked Alison O’Connor. In most of Europe, in-vitro fertilization is fully covered by the public health system. But here, even though 3 percent of Irish babies are born thanks to the procedure, “successive governments have almost tried to pretend that it does not exist.” Families undergoing IVF get no financial assistance. And the clinics they attend aren’t regulated by the state, so patients have no way to check their success rates. Add to that “the lack of regulation around surrogacy, egg donation, embryos, and donor sperm.” The sperm from a single donor can only be used for three Irish families, since the country is so small that if the sperm were widely disseminated there would be a good chance of half-siblings getting married. But that rule is not law: Irish embryologists decided it on their own. What happens if one of them goes rogue? The laws here are so far behind the science as to amount to “serious injustice to those who are undergoing treatment.” Two years ago, then–Health Minister Leo Varadkar promised to regulate and, crucially, to publicly fund fertility treatments. Varadkar has been prime minister since June, and Irish families are still waiting.