Big rise in Dutch euthanasia deaths

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Just-released statistics for Dutch euthanasia in 2011 show that the number of psychiatric patients who died has skyrocketed from 2 in 2010 to 13 last year. Euthanasia for people with dementia also rose substantially, to 49.

But euthanasia of all kinds rose. In 2011 there were 3,695 cases of euthanasia, an increase of 18% over the previous year. The figure is double the number in 2006. There were 4 cases of medical negligence, according to the report. One is being investigated by the public prosecutor.  

Nicole Visee, the secretary general of the national euthanasia commission, told the media that she did not understand why numbers had risen. it could be due to better reporting by doctors, more deaths from terminal illness with the ageing population, or changes in ethical views.

Alex Schadenberg, a Canadian critic who keeps a close eye on the Netherlands, says that euthanasia there is “out of control”. He points out that a study earlier this year in The Lancet estimated that 23% of euthanasia cases are not reported. Applying this metric to the 2011 statistics, he claims that there must have been about 4,500 euthanasia deaths.

Surprisingly for such a controversial topic, the official figures are sketchy and difficult to interpret. BioEdge’s information for 2011 is based on news reports in English, but little more is currently available even in Dutch.

Euthanasia deaths in the Dutch statistics do not include assisted suicide (192 in 2010) or continuous deep sedation, which is often called “slow euthanasia” (8.2% of all deaths in 2005). Euthanasia now accounts for 2.8% of all deaths in the Netherlands – more than 1 person in 50.


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