Research published in the BJPsych Open Journal has revealed that people with autism and intellectual disabilities have been legally euthanised in the Netherlands as part of that country’s assisted-dying program. This is setting a very dangerous precedent, not only within the Netherlands but for other countries which have legalised euthanasia.
Between 2012 and 2021, approximately 60,000 people were euthanised in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch government. A sample of documents, relating to more than 900 of those people, were released for scrutiny.
Specialists at UK’s Kingston University reviewed the documents to see how Dutch doctors were dealing with euthanasia requests from people with autism or with lifelong mental impairments. Their findings are deeply troubling.
“Factors directly associated with intellectual disability and/or ASD were the sole cause of suffering described in 21% of cases and a major contributing factor in a further 42% of cases”
Many of the patients cited different combinations of mental problems, physical ailments, diseases or aging-related difficulties as reasons for seeking euthanasia. Thirty included being lonely as one the causes of their unbearable pain.
“There’s no doubt in my mind these people were suffering,” said Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, a palliative care specialist at Kingston University. “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?”
Simon Baron-Cohen, director of Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre, said it was “abhorrent” that people with autism were being euthanised without being offered further support.
He noted that many autistic people struggle with depression, which could compromise their ability to make a lawful request to die. He also said an autistic person asking to die might not grasp the complexity of the situation.
Download our Fact Sheet on Euthanasia here.
Watch a recent episode of McBlog on the subject of Euthanasia…