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Woman euthanized in Belgium because of 'broken heart,' family says — doctors now under investigation
Three doctors in Belgium are accused of not following legal protocol in the death of a woman who died by physician-assisted suicide in 2010. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

Woman euthanized in Belgium because of 'broken heart,' family says — doctors now under investigation

The family of a woman, who was euthanized in 2010, says she claimed to be autistic in order to qualify for legal killing under Belgian law, but her only medical condition was actually a broken heart. Now, the doctors who assisted in her suicide are under criminal investigation.

What are the details?

Two months before Tine Nys was willingly euthanized, she was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome — a mild form of autism. Nys told two physicians and a psychiatrist that she was experiencing "unbearable and incurable" suffering, which qualified her for voluntary euthanasia in Belgium, where the practice has been legal since 2002.

With her family at her bedside, Nys was given the lethal injection that took her life at the age of 38. But those same loved ones now insist the doctors involved jumped the gun, and that Nys was merely suffering from heartbreak over a failed relationship. Her sisters say Nys lied to the doctors in order to get a false autism diagnosis.

Nys' family filed a criminal complaint last year, according to The Associated Press, alleging several irregularities in her death. Her sister, Sophie, told the AP that the physician who administered the lethal injection asked Nys' parents to hold the needle in place, and then "asked the family to use a stethoscope to confirm that Tine's heart had stopped."

The doctors are also accused of trying to interfere with an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Nys' assisted suicide.

Her psychiatrist, Dr. Lieve Thienpont, reportedly wrote in a message obtained by the AP: "We must try to stop these people. It is a seriously dysfunctional, wounded, traumatized family with very little empathy and respect for others."

The Daily Mail reported that the three doctors involved are now charged with failing to comply with legal protocol in Nys' death by "poisoning," which is the first case to go to trial since euthanasia was decriminalized in the country.

Anything else?

Only two countries — Belgium and the Netherlands — allow people to be euthanized for psychiatric reasons. The most common conditions cited for Belgians who choose to end their life for mental health reasons are depression, personality disorder and Asperger's.

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