Asperger’s syndrome falsely vilified


Re: “Ethical frontiers of mercy,” Oct. 5.

I have a serious concern with the inaccurate representation of Asperger’s syndrome in this article and in the CBC documentary Road to Mercy.

My wife and I have an adult son with Asperger’s syndrome and we have known many others diagnosed with this disability. All the Asperger’s children and adults we have had the pleasure to meet over the past 25 years are typically intelligent and happy people. Most have underdeveloped social skills and some have episodes of depression, but none are candidates for doctor-assisted death.

Asperger’s people are amazing individuals, often showing exceptional talent in specific areas. They share unique personality traits that make them special men and women. Asperger’s people are loved and appreciated for their differences, not in spite of them.

Although I support doctor-assisted death as legislated in Canada, I was extremely troubled with the portrayal and characterization of Amy De Schutter (Belgian resident) as a person diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. This woman might, sadly, have a serious psychiatric disorder that would justify doctor-assisted death in Belgium, but her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis would not, and should not, justify doctor-assisted death in any country.

The reference to Asperger’s syndrome in the article and documentary sends a dangerous message to Asperger’s people who do not have a serious psychiatric disorder, such as De Schutter. Moreover, it is important to note that De Schutter’s specific psychiatric diagnosis was never identified in these publications — they only identified Asperger’s syndrome.

I believe that medical and psychology professionals would agree that this representation of Asperger’s was extremely misleading.

David Mansell


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