Some people with autism, intellectual disabilities are seeking euthanasia, researchers find

Here are the top stories in health news this week from Yahoo News partners.

‘There’s no doubt in my mind these people were suffering.’

Some people who have been legally euthanized in the Netherlands in recent years cited autism or intellectual disabilities as the only reason or a major reason for seeking euthanasia, saying they could not lead normal lives.

The findings were published last month by researchers at Britain’s Kingston University, who reviewed documents released by the Dutch government’s euthanasia review committee, related to 900 of the nearly 60,000 people killed at their own request between 2012 and 2021.

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Most of those 900 people were older and had conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s and ALS. But the group also included five people under 30 years old, “who cited autism as either the only reason or a major contributing factor for euthanasia,” the Associated Press reported. Thirty of the people included loneliness as a cause of their unbearable pain, and eight said that “the only causes of their suffering were factors linked to their intellectual disability or autism — social isolation, a lack of coping strategies or an inability to adjust their thinking.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind these people were suffering,” Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, a palliative care specialist who led the research, said. “But is society really OK with sending this message, that there’s no other way to help them and it’s just better to be dead?”

In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia. Other countries, including Belgium, Canada and Colombia, have also adopted the practice, but the Netherlands is the only country “that shares detailed information about potentially controversial deaths,” according to the Associated Press.

New law grants more ‘accommodations’ for pregnant and postpartum workers

iStock / Getty Images Plus

iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on Tuesday, with an estimated 2.8 million pregnant and postpartum workers per year anticipated to benefit from the policy change, NBC News reported.

The act, which was signed into law by President Biden in December, requires that employers with at least 15 employees provide “reasonable accommodations” to workers who need them. Examples of possible accommodations include flexible hours, closer parking and “being excused from strenuous activities and/or exposure to chemicals not safe for pregnancy,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The new law does not guarantee paid parental leave, and employers can opt out of providing accommodations if they can show that accommodations present an “undue hardship” on their business operations.

Malaria spread locally in U.S. for first time in 20 years

iStock / Getty Images Plus

iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Health Alert Network Health Advisory on Monday related to cases of malaria in Florida and Texas, marking the first time in 20 years in the United States that the disease has spread through locally contracted cases, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC said that there was no evidence to suggest that the cases in the two states are related. The Florida Department of Health issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory, after four residents in Sarasota County, which is along the state’s Gulf Coast, reportedly received treatment and recovered from the disease, with the first case reported in late May. A case was also reported in Cameron County, Texas, which lies along the Gulf Coast at the southernmost tip of the state.

Malaria is caused by a parasite that spreads through bites from Anopheles mosquitoes, and not through person-to-person contact. Symptoms include fever, chills, sweats, nausea and vomiting, and headaches. About 2,000 U.S. cases of malaria are diagnosed each year, but the majority of those cases are among travelers coming from countries where malaria commonly spreads.

Children should be reading this many hours per week for ‘optimal’ results, study says

Peter Cade / Getty Images

Peter Cade / Getty Images

A study of more than 10,000 children in the U.S. found that those who read for pleasure at a young age also performed better at school and on mental health assessments as teenagers.

The study published on Wednesday by researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick in the U.K., and Fudan University in China, compared children who read for enjoyment before they were 9 years old to children who started doing so later, or not at all. They found that children who started reading for pleasure earlier performed better at academic achievement and in tests measuring verbal learning, memory and speech development as teenagers.

They also slept longer and tended to use screens less, and “had better mental well-being, showing fewer signs of stress and depression, as well as improved attention, and fewer behavioral problems such as aggression and rule-breaking,” PA Media reported.

“Reading isn’t just a pleasurable experience — it’s widely accepted that it inspires thinking and creativity, increases empathy and reduces stress,” Professor Barbara Sahakian of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge said. “But on top of this, we found significant evidence that it’s linked to important developmental factors in children, improving their cognition, mental health and brain structure, which are cornerstones for future learning and well-being.”

For “optimal” results, researchers concluded that children should be reading for pleasure for about 12 hours every week.

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