"Because of His Intellectual Disability, He Couldn't Cope." Is Euthanasia the Answer?

Irene Tuffrey-Wijne*, Leopold Curfs, Ilora Finlay, Sheila Hollins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In 2018, the authors published their analysis of nine online case reports by the Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands, involving people with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder who were given euthanasia. In this commentary, they reflect further on the challenges of assessing "unbearable suffering without prospect of improvement," which is one of the Dutch legal due care criteria. Two more recent case reports are presented in detail, where doctors struggled to assess and sometimes came to divergent conclusions. In both cases, limitations resulting from the intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder were seen by physicians as causes of unbearable suffering, leading them to agreeing to the patient's euthanasia request. The authors discuss their concern about the implications of accepting the effects of lifelong disability as reasons for euthanasia, not only for individuals but for society as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-116
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • autism spectrum disorders
  • euthanasia
  • intellectual disabilities
  • legislation
  • the Netherlands

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