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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 66
Gender: Male
Posts: 32,864
Location: Long Island, New York

30 May 2023, 9:05 am

Are Dutch doctors too willing to euthanise people with autism and intellectual disability?

Will legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide lead to unnecessary deaths because of an able-ist bias against intellectual disability and autism? The records of Dutch euthanasia review committees (Regionale Toetsingscommissies Euthanasie, RTE) provide a rich source of data for answering questions like this.

After examining some of them, four UK and Dutch researchers believe that the answer may be Yes. They conclude, in an article in BJPsych Open that “Examination of societal support for suffering associated with lifelong disability, and debates around the acceptability of these factors as reasons for granting EAS, are of international importance.”

In their EAS reports, Dutch doctors must explain what the suffering consisted of, why they were convinced it was unbearable and how they came to the conclusion that there was no prospect of improvement. By studying these 39 cases carefully, the researchers reached some disturbing conclusions.

Family connections of these people were weak or non-existent. Over three-quarters of patients described being lonely or socially isolated as a major cause of suffering.

For more than half of patients, difficulty in coping with life or with the world (often described as a lack of resilience) was a major contributor to their EAS request.

Rigid coping strategies, a need to stick to routines, difficulties in considering alternatives, and compulsive behaviours were a major cause of suffering.

Oversensitivity to stimuli was noted in about a quarter of the patients.

The researchers concluded: “The acceptance of these as criteria for ending life could reflect a tacit endorsement of society’s failure of inclusion of people with ASD/intellectual disability and a failure to ensure that resources and competencies are available to assist people to cope with the challenges society and daily living present.”

They go on to say: “Dutch law requires that EAS is permitted only in cases where the suffering has a medical basis. This raises real questions about accepting factors such as ‘difficulty in coping with changing circumstances’ as reasons for EAS, as these are associated with lifelong disability rather than an acquired medical condition. The implicit message communicated to patients in granting EAS requests on the basis of intellectual disability or ASD-related suffering is that such conditions are indeed hopeless. This is of concern, as is the risk that the option of EAS hampers investment in appropriate treatments and societal changes.”

One interesting feature of these cases is that the patient’s family doctor often refused their request for euthanasia. So, in 69% of cases, a doctor from the Expertisecentrum Euthanasie (Euthanasia Expertise Centre) did the job. This is a private group whose doctors take a very broad view of eligibility for euthanasia. It began as a project of the NVVE, the Dutch Right to Die Society.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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Joined: 17 Jul 2004
Age: 48
Gender: Male
Posts: 109,728
Location: On a special base where the Christmas soldiers of the world live

08 Jun 2023, 1:15 pm

I hope it doesn't come to this in Canada.


Age: 48
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