Woman With Asperger's Was Euthanized. Now, a Trial

It's the first such case in Belgium since the practice became legal in 2002
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 27, 2018 12:25 PM CST
Updated Dec 1, 2018 3:06 PM CST
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In this June 2017 photo, psychiatrist Dr. Lieve Thienpont poses during an interview with the Associated Press, in Ghent, Belgium, one of the few countries that allow for euthanasia.   (AP Photo/Maria Cheng, file)

(Newser) – Belgian doctors accused of improperly euthanizing a woman with autism will see their case go to trial, marking "the first time that there has been a decision to refer such a case to a court of law" since the practice was legalized in 2002, a prosecutor tells the AFP. Three doctors from East Flanders are being investigated on suspicion of having "poisoned" Tine Nys in 2010. The 38-year-old had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome two months before she died in an apparently legal killing by a doctor. Sophie Nys, one of Tine's sisters, told the AP of "irregularities" in the process: that the doctor who performed the euthanasia asked her parents to hold the needle in place while he administered the fatal injection, among other fumbling efforts. Afterward, the doctor asked the family to use a stethoscope to confirm that Tine's heart had stopped.

Last year, the AP reported that after Nys' family filed a criminal complaint, her doctors attempted to block the investigation. "We must try to stop these people," wrote Dr. Lieve Thienpont, the psychiatrist who approved Nys' request to die—and one of the doctors now facing charges. "It is a seriously dysfunctional, wounded, traumatized family with very little empathy and respect for others." Nys also alleged that her sister's longtime psychiatrist wouldn't give Tine the OK, and that Thienpoint did so after as few as two or three sessions with her. Belgium is one of two countries, along with the Netherlands, where euthanasia of people for psychiatric reasons—including depression, personality disorder and Asperger's—is allowed if they can prove they have "unbearable and untreatable" suffering.

(Read more euthanasia stories.)

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