38-Year-Old Woman With Autism Was Euthanized In Belgium. Authorities Are Investigating Improper Poisoning

Grace Carr | Reporter

Belgian authorities are investigating the euthanasia of a 38-year-old woman with autism on the suspicion of poisoning after her family alleged there were irregularities in her death.

Doctors who euthanized Belgian woman Tine Nys in 2010 will face an investigation and have been referred to the Court of Assize in Ghent, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. It is the first criminal investigation into a euthanasia case since Belgium legalized aid-in-dying in 2002.

Belgium allows doctors to euthanize persons with psychiatric ailments if they prove they face “unbearable and untreatable” suffering, according to the AP. The Netherlands also allows euthanasia for those “experiencing unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement.” It permits patients as young as 12 years old to request euthanasia with the consent of a parent or guardian.

Nys’s family filed a criminal complaint in 2017, alleging Tine’s euthanasia was granted too easily, according to the AP.

“She knew that if she wasn’t diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s that she would not have a chance (of being euthanized),” Sophie Nys said, explaining her sister was intent on doing anything, even manipulating the qualification test, in order to be euthanized.

The complaint also alleged the doctors involved in Nys’s death clumsily administered the lethal medication and asked the family to check for a pulse, according to the AP.

Dr. Lieve Thienpont approved Nys’s request to be euthanized and has reportedly sought to impede investigation into her death.

“We must try to stop these people,” Thienpont reportedly wrote, according to the AP. “It is a seriously dysfunctional, wounded, traumatized family with very little empathy and respect for others.”

Colleagues have admitted Thienpont is more likely to approve euthanasia requests than other doctors.

Dr. Wim Distelmans leads Belgium’s euthanasia review commission and said Thienpont might not have adhered to legal regulations when approving requests for euthanasia and administering lethal drugs, the AP reported. Distelmans also said he won’t accept any patients referred to him by Thienpont.

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Euthanasia is legal in Canada, Colombia and Luxembourg, but requirements vary, the AP previously reported(RELATED: Massachusetts Might Legalize Assisted Suicide, And It Could Turn America Into The Netherlands)

More than 10,000 people have been euthanized since the practice became legal, according to the AP, and euthanasia requests due to mental illness in Belgium are often from patients with depression, personality disorders or Asperger’s.

The number of people euthanized in the Netherlands rises every year, according to Reuters. The rate of death by euthanasia was 4.4 percent — 6,585 deaths — in 2017.

California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Hawaii, Montana and Washington permit physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill adult patients.

No trial date has been chosen.

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