Life Imitating Art: Euthanasia in the Netherlands

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Researchers at Kingston University in the United Kingdom conducted a study on 927 euthanasia patients in the Netherlands and discovered “significant complexities and ethical dilemmas” in the files, including 39 patients whose only complaint was autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and “intellectual disability.” Of the 39 patients, “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.”

To meet the requirements for euthanasia in the Netherlands, a patient must show that they “experience unbearable and incurable physical or mental suffering,” according to The Messenger.

“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 okay with sending this message, that there’s no other way to help them and it’s just better to be dead?”

Five people under 30 said autism was the sole reason or a major reason for the procedure. Many of the patients in the 39 cases cited other conditions, like mental health issues or aging difficulties. Thirty people said loneliness was part of the reason for their decision. Meeting the requirements to be legally euthanized in the Netherlands requires a determination that one experiences unbearable and incurable physical or mental suffering. Most of the 927 cases studied involved elderly people with cancer, Parkinson’s or ALS.

There’s another catch: these 927 cases are only a small fraction of euthanasia cases that have been released to the public. More than 60,000 instances of state-sponsored euthanasia have been authorized since 2002 when killing yourself in the Netherlands became legal.

And yes, there is a very slippery slope that the Dutch are reluctant to recognize.

When euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands, the debate centered mostly on cancer patients and other life-limiting somatic diseases, not those with autism and intellectual disabilities.

Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship, said he worried this could be happening in Canada, where euthanization is also legal.

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

I remember the original debates about euthanasia in the Netherlands, particularly the “Groningen Protocols,” which allowed doctors to euthanize babies against their parents’ will if the doctors determined the baby would be “better off dead.”

Now, the pretense of ending life in order to end unbearable, excruciating pain and suffering has been dropped and, as Tim Stanton points out, what we’re talking about here “is essentially eugenics.”

More than that, the Dutch have begun to develop suicide systems that bear an eery resemblance to Hollywood’s idea of futuristic euthanasia in a dystopian future.

The 1973 movie Soylent Green was an interesting film but ultimately failed due to a poor script and uneven direction. It starred Charlton Heston as a granite-jawed police detective in a world where there were so many human beings, there literally was no room to live. As a city employee, Heston was one of the lucky ones. He shared a one-room flat with his “library” — so-called because he knew how to find information to help Heston in his police work. It was Edward G. Robinson in his last role before his death. Robinson grew up when the earth was green and teeming with wildlife.

Heston is tasked with solving the murder of a rich man. As the investigation proceeds, Heston finds himself getting closer and closer to a horrifying truth. On the verge of solving the murder, Robinson decides to take advantage of one of several euthanasia centers where people go to die.

The state makes the death experience as pleasant as possible.

Spoiler Alert: Heston follows Robinson’s body where he discovers a processing plant that the government is using to turn the dead bodies into food for humans. ( “It’s people! Soylent Green is made out of people!” Heston exclaims).

Robinson’s experience of death could very well match the latest “suicide machine” that just hit the market.

The “Sarco” machine is operating in Switzerland, and the inventor is seeking approval for operation in other nations where euthanasia is legal.

What a way to go, huh?


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