Thursday, September 10, 2009

Incidence of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide continue to increase in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Recent reports from the Netherlands and Belgium prove that there is a growing number and percentage of people who are dying by euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The report from the Netherlands stated that there were 2331 cases of euthanasia in 2008 up from 2120 cases in 2007 and 1923 cases in 2006. This represented an increase of 10% each year.

Mr. J.J.H. Suyver who is the coordinating chairman of the reporting committee suggested that the increase was due to a higher level of reporting. He suggested that another reason for the increase is that Dutch doctors are now aware that there is greater room within the law for euthanasia than previously thought.

Suyver stated that the government has announced that their will be an investigation in 2010 as to the number of cases and the use of the law.

A study was completed in Belgium concerning the number of euthanasia cases in the Flanders region. This study was not a national survey of euthanasia in Belgium but it did compare the instance of euthanasia to a similar study in 2002.

The Belgium study examined 6202 death certificates in the Flanders region and found that 137 were euthanasia deaths. This represented more than 2% of all deaths in that region which is a massive increase since the last study.

Alistair Thompson, speaking on behalf of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK commented on the Belgium study by saying: 
“We are facing a concerted effort across Europe to have euthanasia legalized but ... in the UK what we tend to see is a drop in support for euthanasia as more people understand the arguments against state-backed euthanasia.”
It is important to note that neither study reports the number of deaths without explicit request.

The last major study in the Netherlands showed that 550 people died by euthanasia without explicit request in 2005. It is important to note that those deaths are not counted in the 2331 reported cases because euthanasia is defined as a death by request.

It is also important to note that neither reports the number of intentional deaths by dehydration that occur each year. A study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that 7.1% of all deaths in the Netherlands in 2005 were related to terminal sedation, which is often done to cause the death of the person and not simply to relieve intractable pain. Since than several reports have indicated that at least 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands are related to terminal sedation.

It is also important to note that neither study referred to the incidence of infant euthanasia. Netherlands and Belgium allow infant euthanasia based on the principles in the Groningen Protocol.

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