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A 2002 euthanasia law passed in the Netherlands allows patients to request a doctor’s assistance in ending their lives following strict guidelines.
Netherlands’ government clearly states that a patient, not family or friends, must consent to euthanasia, and a doctor is not required to perform the procedure.
A recent study found that some patients have cited their autism spectrum disorder or an intellectual disability as the main reason why they wanted to end their lives. The law does not require a person to be suffering from a physical ailment when seeking euthanasia.
A study published in May found that several people who used a euthanasia law in the Netherlands cited autism or intellectual disabilities when requesting help to end their lives.
The Netherlands, which in 2002 became the first country to pass a doctor-assisted euthanasia law, in April announced a plan to expand the law to include children ages 1 through 12 in rare cases.
A Facebook video, based on an article from a website that often publishes fake news, used these recent developments to make misleading claims about how the euthanasia law works in the Netherlands.
"Doctors in the Netherlands have been ordered to begin euthanizing citizens with autism and other minor disabilities, without fear of prosecution — even if the patient does not currently express any desire to die," said a woman in a video shared July 26 on Facebook.
In the video, the woman reads from a July 22 article on the website, The People’s Voice, which has made many false claims that PolitiFact has debunked over the years. The site was rebranded from YourNewsWire to News Punch to circumvent Meta’s fact-checking program, Poynter wrote in 2019. It now goes by The People’s Voice.
This Facebook post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The Netherlands’ euthanasia law does not allow people to be euthanized against their will or force doctors to perform the procedure.
A Netherlands government website explicitly states that "euthanasia can be performed only at the patient’s own request, not at the request of relatives or friends." It also says physicians are not required to perform the procedure.
Doctors who perform euthanasia must report the deaths to one of five regional review committees, which the government says assesses "whether the physician who performed the euthanasia has fulfilled the statutory due care criteria."
The Euthanasia Code 2022, published by the country’s Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, states that doctors performing euthanasia must "be satisfied that the patient’s request is voluntary and well considered."
In its 2022 annual report, the review committees said they received 8,720 euthanasia reports in the Netherlands that year, about 5% of all deaths in the country and a 13.7% euthanasia increase from 2021.
Cancer was the most common condition reported in patients using the law and affected nearly 58% of patients, according to the 2022 report. The Netherlands’ law does not require that euthanasia only be performed because of a physical ailment.
A study published in May based on reports released by the review committees found that of 927 euthanasia cases from 2012 to 2021 in the Netherlands, 39 people had autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities or both.
Of those 39 people, eight listed factors directly associated with autism or intellectual disability as their only cause of suffering.
The People’s Voice article made other false or misleading claims, including that the government promotes euthanasia "to save the planet" and that children younger than 12 are being euthanized.
We found no evidence the Dutch government has tied its euthanasia law to saving the planet.
It is true that in April, the Netherlands announced a plan to widen the law in rare circumstances to children ages 1 to 12.
That would apply to "a small group of terminally ill children who suffer hopelessly and unbearably, whose palliative care options are not sufficient to relieve their suffering and who are expected to die in the foreseeable future," the government said in a press release. It added that about five to 10 children a year might fall into that category.
The revisions to expand the law haven’t been finalized, so they are not currently in effect. The announcement said they’ll be published sometime in 2023.
Under current law, children ages 12 to 15 are eligible for euthanasia with parental consent. Some newborn babies with serious disorders could be euthanized if at least two doctors and the parents agree that "the child’s suffering must be unbearable and with no prospect of improvement."
A Facebook video claimed that doctors in the Netherlands were being ordered to perform euthanasia on patients with autism or other minor ailments, regardless of whether the patient currently wants to die.
Although a recent study showed that some patients cited autism or an intellectual disability as their main cause of suffering when requesting euthanasia, the Netherlands’ law clearly states that a patient must consent to euthanasia and that doctors do not have to perform the procedure.
We rate the claim False.
The People’s Voice, WEF-Infiltrated Dutch Gov’t Begins Euthanizing People With Autism, Disabilities, and Alcoholism, July 22, 2023 (archived July 28)
Government of the Netherlands, Euthanasia, accessed July 28, 2023
Government of the Netherlands, Is euthanasia allowed, accessed July 28, 2023
Government of the Netherlands, Euthanasia, assisted suicide and non-resuscitation on request, accessed July 28, 2023
Government of the Netherlands, Euthanasia and newborn infants, accessed July 28, 2023
Government of the Netherlands, Cabinet is working on a life termination scheme for children up to the age of 12 who suffer unbearably and without hope, April 14, 2023
Cambridge University Press, Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders: investigation of 39 Dutch case reports (2012–2021), May 23, 2023
The Associated Press, Some Dutch people seeking euthanasia cite autism or intellectual disabilities, researchers say, June 28, 2023
Reuters, Dutch to widen 'right-to-die' to include terminally ill children, April 14, 2023
The Guardian, Netherlands to broaden euthanasia rules to cover children of all ages, April 14, 2023
Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, Euthanasia Code 2022, March 27, 2023
Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, Annual report 2022, March 27, 2023
Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, The committees, accessed July 28, 2023
World Federation Right to Die Societies, Dutch law on Termination of life on request and assisted suicide (complete text), accessed July 28, 2023
Poynter, Want to get away with posting fake news on Facebook? Just change your website domain., Jan. 30, 2019
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