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Euthanasia for Autism, Intellectual Disabilities in the Netherlands

by | Oct 31, 2023

By Wesley J. Smith

The AP is reporting that a medical study found that autistic people and those with intellectual disabilities have been euthanized in the Netherlands. From the story:

Several people with autism and intellectual disabilities have been legally euthanized in the Netherlands in recent years because they said they could not lead normal lives, researchers have found.

The cases included five people younger than 30 who cited autism as either the only reason or a major contributing factor for euthanasia, setting an uneasy precedent that some experts say stretches the limits of what the law originally intended.

I never understand why people are surprised by these kinds of horror stories. Once a society decides that killing is an acceptable answer to suffering, what constitutes suffering sufficient to be made dead becomes highly elastic and stretches over time. This can even include loneliness, as I have written about before. The story describes the phenomenon:

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. Eight said the only causes of their suffering were factors linked to their intellectual disability or autism — social isolation, a lack of coping strategies or an inability to adjust their thinking.

The unintended cruelty of euthanasia is becoming increasingly clear:

Dr. Bram Sizoo, a Dutch psychiatrist, was disturbed that young people with autism viewed euthanasia as a viable solution.

“Some of them are almost excited at the prospect of death,” Sizoo said. “They think this will be the end of their problems and the end of their family’s problems.” . . .

Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, wonders if the same thing is happening in Canada, which arguably has the world’s most permissive euthanasia laws and which doesn’t keep the kinds of records that the Netherlands does.

“Helping people with autism and intellectual disabilities to die is essentially eugenics,” Stainton said.

Indeed. Now, add in the prospect of organ harvesting as a benefit to society and the acute danger to the vulnerable who can come — or be made — to think that their deaths will have greater value than their lives comes vividly into focus.

The media generally boost euthanasia/assisted suicide with puff stories that depict being killed as a form of empowerment. But not this time. Good on the AP for reporting on these horrible, but entirely predictable, cases of rank abandonment.

Editor’s note. Wesley’s great columns appear at National Review Online and are reposted with his permission.

Categories: Euthanasia