Search This Blog

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Euthanasia and Autism in Europe

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the dangers of eugenics and euthanasia.

At The Washington Post, Charles Lane writes of an autistic Dutch psychiatric patient Dutch psychiatric patient known as 2014-77.  Despite his doctor's qualms, he requested and got a fatal dose of drugs.
Thus did a man in his 30s whose only diagnosis was autism become one of 110 people to be euthanized for mental disorders in the Netherlands between 2011 and 2014. That’s the rough equivalent of 2,000 people in the United States.

According to an analysis of 66 of the 110 cases from 2011 to 2014, by psychiatrist Scott Kim of the National Institutes of Health and two colleagues, Dutch psychiatric patients were often euthanized despite disagreement among consulting physicians as to whether they met legal criteria. In 37 cases, patients refused possibly beneficial treatment, and doctors proceeded anyway.
Among the obvious risks, Columbia University psychiatrist Paul S. Appelbaum writes in a companion article to Kim’s, is “inducing hopelessness among other individuals with similar conditions and removing pressure for an improvement in psychiatric and social services.”
“Will psychiatrists conclude from the legalization of assisted death that it is acceptable to give up on treating some patients?” Appelbaum asks.
Some doctors already have. In 2009, a 37-year-old Belgian woman became distraught after a romantic breakup and began seeking a doctor to euthanize her, per that country’s law, which is similar to Holland’s.
The woman, Tine Nys, had a history of mental illness, including a teenage suicide attempt, but had more recently been doing well. In February 2010, however, she received a new diagnosis of autism and, two months later, a lethal injection. Her two surviving sisters have recently come forward to denounce the administering physician’s “nonchalant” attitude.