Three Belgian doctors are facing possible charges after authorities launched an investigation into the euthanizing of a woman who suffered with Asperger Syndrome. The trio from East Flanders is being investigated on suspicion of “poisoning” Tine Nys, 38, in 2010.
Belgium, along with the Netherlands, employs extremely liberal euthanasia laws, which allow for the killing of people with psychiatric conditions, as long as they can prove themselves to be in the throes of “unbearable and untreatable” suffering. Last year, the Nys family filed a criminal complaint, claiming that there were many “irregularities” witnessed in the process leading up to Tine’s death.
The doctor administering the lethal drug that would take the woman’s life reportedly fumbled through the situation, asking family members to hold the needle in place and to confirm for themselves that she was deceased by using a stethoscope. According to the Guardian, Belgium’s chamber of indictment “presumes that there are sufficient indications in this particular case” and has thus referred the case to the court of assize in Ghent.
The family also claimed that Nys could have been misdiagnosed as having Asperger’s, a developmental disorder that sits on the Autistic Spectrum. According to the Washington Post, Nys’s family “insisted she was depressed over a recent breakup with her boyfriend.”
Asperger Syndrome is usually diagnosed “by a multi-disciplinary diagnostic team,” according to the National Autistic Society. The condition, the society notes, “varies widely from person to person,” and thus a comprehensive diagnosis can be extremely difficult to reach.
Dr. Lieve Thienpont, the psychiatrist who approved Nys’s assisted suicide, has also been accused of signing off too easily on the euthanasia of patients with mental illnesses. The family noted that Nys’ diagnosis and the approval for euthanasia, were decided over the course of just three sessions.
More than 10,000 people have been euthanized in Belgium since the practice was legalized in 2002. Out of those, just one case has been handed to prosecutors, but this was later dropped.