Monday, July 16, 2012

Lancet Study proves significant increase in euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The long awaited 2010 nationwide analysis of the Netherlands euthanasia law was published in the Lancet on July 11, 2012. The study found that:
  • the number of euthanasia deaths increased significantly since 2005 (4050 in 2010, 2425 in 2005),
  • the under-reported euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands increased since 2005 (23% in 2010, 20% in 2005),
  • the number of deaths by terminal sedation increased significantly (12.3% in 2010, 8.2% in 2005),
  • the percentage of requests for euthanasia being filled increased (45% in 2010, 37% in 2005).
  • hastened deaths without explicit request decreased (310 in 2010, 550 in 2005).
The media reports ignored the significant growth in euthanasia deaths since 2005, and reported that the percentage of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands is similar to the percentage of euthanasia deaths in 2001, before euthanasia was officially legalized.

Historical facts:

Euthanasia was first legalized by court decisions in the Netherlands. In 1984, the Netherlands Supreme Court established a set of "guidelines" that a physician was to follow to cause the death of a person by euthanasia without fear of prosecution

From 1984 to 2002 a series of legal decisions led to a widening application of euthanasia.  The courts allowed euthanasia for people living depression (mental pain), to children who were born with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups.

In 2001, the Netherlands parliament official legalized euthanasia along the guidelines that were approved by the successive court decisions. The law officially came into effect in April 2002. Therefore euthanasia and assisted suicide were common before being legalized in the Netherlands.

Significant growth in Euthanasia:

In 2003, the first full-year of legal euthanasia in the Netherlands, there were 1815 reported cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands. In 2010, there were 3136 reported cases of euthanasia. There is an approximate (20 – 23%) rate of under-reporting, nonetheless, based on the reported number of euthanasia deaths there has been a 73% increase in euthanasia deaths since 2003.

The continued increase in reported of euthanasia deaths has over the past few years with a 19% increase in 2010 and a 13% increase in 2009.

The continued increase in the number of euthanasia deaths may be partly explained by the increase in the percentage of euthanasia deaths that are done. In 2005 - 37% of requests for euthanasia were completed while in 2010 - 45% of requests were completed.

There has also been a 50 percent increase in the number of deaths by terminal sedation since 2005. Terminal sedation is usually done by sedating a person and withdrawing fluids and food. Palliative sedation is different than terminal sedation because with palliative sedation the intention is to allow natural death to occur. Terminal Sedation is viewed by some people as an alternative to euthanasia. 

When a person is not otherwise dying, dies by terminal sedation, the death may be a form of euthanasia, also known as “slow euthanasia” because the intention of the act is to cause the death of a person who is not otherwise dying.

The media reports:

Dr. Peter Saunders
The medical daily reported that: Rates of Euthanasia are steady since 2002 legalization, Fox news reported: Little change in Dutch euthanasia post-legality, and reported: Euthanasia number remain the same after legalization – study.

Clearly, the media bought into a common position based on the press release from the Lancet, rather than reading the study to uncover significant concerns.

A thorough response was written by Dr. PeterSaunders, Campaign Director for the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK. Saunders article focused on the incredible shift towards the use of Deep Continuous Sedation (Terminal Sedation) in order to keep the number of euthanasia deaths officially low.

Euthanasia in the Netherlands:

The rate of euthanasia in the Netherlands has increased by 73% in the last 8 years (1815 reported deaths in 2003, 3136 reported deaths in 2010) and even more important, the rate of euthanasia has increased by almost 35% in the past two years (2331 reported deaths in 2008, 3136 reported deaths in 2010).

Combined with the growth in the use of terminal sedation for people who are not otherwise dying “slow euthanasia” and the slight increase in the number of unreported euthanasia deaths, one must conclude that there are abuses occurring in the Netherlands.

On March 1, the euthanasia clinic in the Netherlands launched six mobile euthanasia teams in the Netherlands. The NVVE, euthanasia lobby announced that they anticipate that the mobile euthanasia teams would do 1000 euthanasia deaths per year.

The mobile euthanasia teams plan to fill unmet demand for euthanasia for people with chronic depression (mental pain), people with disabilities, people with dementia, loneliness, and those whose request for euthanasia is declined by their physician. In 2010 45% of all euthanasia requests resulted in death by euthanasia.

Similar to the previous euthanasia reports (1990, 1995, 2001, 2005) the 2010 report uncovers significant concerns related to the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide is not safe and the safeguards that are devised to control euthanasia do not protect the dying, but rather they protect the doctor.

1 comment:

JOHN HAYES said...

I suggest you read the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE {July 12 2012} re editorial on ASSISTED SUICIDE> YOU can submit a reply by email.