Lieve Thienpont, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, has been searching tirelessly for many years to find ways to help people with unbearable and hopeless suffering to die with dignity. The Belgian Euthanasia Act now makes this possible for patients with psychiatric problems. Her deeply human and process-based approach to her work is focused on the key concepts of hope, commitment and connectedness. She allows herself to be guided by her patients’ wishes with understanding and respect.
It is of great importance to Lieve Thienpont that her patients leave her consultations with a new spark of hope, if not (yet) for a better life, than at
least for the prospect of a dignified death.
From a conversation with Petra de Jong, former director of the Dutch Right to Die Society, it is clear that in spite of minor legislative differences care providers in the Netherlands and Belgium are facing the same challenge of assisting every mentally competent citizen to exercise his or her right to die a gentle death. They also look for answers to the difficult question of what can be done for people want to step out of life with dignity, but who are no longer capable of making their own decisions.
Lieve Thienpont is a LEIF doctor and chairperson of Vonkel, a listening house in Ghent, where welltrained volunteers provide information about death, dying and grieving. Since the foundation in 2011 of ULteam – a team dedicated to clarifying end-of-life issues – she has also been working as a consultant-psychiatrist at the organization’s centres in Wemmel, Bruges and Ghent. She is much in demand as a speaker for lectures and training courses.