Thursday, March 19, 2015

Study: Euthanasia represents 4.6% of all deaths in Flanders Belgium in 2013, deaths without patient request continues

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director and International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) (March 19, 2015) published the basic statistics related to a new study titled: Recent Trends in Euthanasia and Other End-of-Life Practices in Belgium.

Similar to previous studies, this study 6188 questionnaires to physicians in Flanders Belgium in the first half of 2013. The study received a 60.6% response rate by receiving 3751 returned questionnaires.

The data indicates that:
1. The percentage of euthanasia deaths increased from 1.9% of all deaths in 2007 to 4.6% of all deaths in 2013 representing a 242% increase in 6 years. 
2. The percentage of assisted suicide deaths decreased from .07% of all deaths in 2007 to .05% of all deaths in 2013 representing no statistical difference. 
3. The percentage of requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide increased from 3.5% of all deaths in 2007 to 6.0% of all deaths in 2013
4. The percentage of requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide that were granted increased from 56.3% in 2007 to 76.8% in 2013.
A significant and continuous problem in Belgium is the number of hastened deaths without explicit request from the patient.
In 2007, 1.8% of all deaths were hastened deaths without explicit request while in 2013, 1.7% of all deaths were hastened deaths without explicit request.
Since there were 61,621 deaths in 2013 in Flanders Belgium and since 1.7% of all deaths are hastened without explicit request, therefore approximately 1047 deaths are hastened each year without request in Flanders Belgium.

Further research needs to be done concerning these deaths without explicit request. In 2007, approximately 1 in 3 hastened deaths without explicit request were euthanasia.

The study also indicates that the use of continuous deep sedation until death decreased from 14.5% of all deaths in 2007 to 12% of all deaths in 2013. It is possible that the increase in euthanasia deaths accounts for much of the decrease in deaths by continuous deep sedation.

Continuous deep sedation until death is known as "slow euthanasia" when the physician sedates a patient, who is not otherwise dying and withdraws water and food to cause death by dehydration.

The issue of continuous deep sedation has become very important now that France is debating a bill to widen the application of continuous deep sedation.


Juel Koch said...

The horrible thing is - these are all preventable deaths. If a deadly new disease came along and caused 4.6% of all deaths we would panic and try everything to stop it. Death is not always preventable. Suicide is not always preventable. But assisted suicide and euthanasia are 100% preventable.

Jule Koch said...

Thinking of the implications of all this is getting more and more horrifying. I just discussed my late husband's death in 2002 with another family member. We were all present and lovingly caring for him. Her memory and estimation of how much he was suffering varies quite a bit from mine, but there was no disagreement among us at the time; it didn't matter because there was only one thing to do - to make him as comfortable as possible. If he died with this legislation in force, we perhaps would have been forced to fight each other - with some asserting he was suffering too much, let's get the needle, while others would suspect that the one group is trying to get rid of him. What a nightmare this will be for family dynamics - causing life-long divisions and bitter enmity. My husband himself would have been horrified by the Supreme Court decision. He faced his death with deep courage and his only goal was to continue contributing as much as he could to the world, right up until his last breath. And he did that - all my family members who died have left behind them a legacy of courage.