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Medical study shows autistic people have been euthanized in The Netherlands

Assisted Suicide
31 October 2023
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A recent study has shown that autistic people and people with intellectual disabilities have been euthanized in The Netherlands, the Associated Press (AP) has reported.

Those euthanized include five people under 30 years old, all of whom cited autism as the only reason, or as a major contributing factor for seeking help to be killed.

The Netherlands became the first country to allow doctors to carry out euthanasia upon a patient’s request in 2002, but experts warn that these cases stretch the limits on what the law originally allowed for.

At the time of introduction, the law stated that patients must meet strict requirements, including having an incurable illness, causing ‘unbearable’ physical or mental suffering.

Palliative care specialist Irene Tuffrey-Wijne reviewed the study to uncover how Dutch doctors were handling euthanasia requests, finding that 30 of the 900 cases had cited being lonely as one of the causes for their unbearable pain.

Irene said: “There’s no doubt in my mind these people were suffering, but is society really OK with sending this message, that there’s no other way to help them and it’s just better to be dead?”

Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia said: “Helping people with autism and intellectual disabilities to die is essentially eugenics”.

This all comes at a time when the Canadian government is preparing to legalise euthanasia for those suffering solely from a mental illness, and for those addicted to drugs. Canada’s law, too, started with strict limits on who was eligible for assisted suicide, but has evolved significantly since its introduction.

Across the UK, there are active assisted suicide law proposals in Jersey, with legislation being debated on the Isle of Man and due to be formally introduced soon at the Scottish Parliament.

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