Bioethics News

Dutch euthanasia cases up by 4%

The number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands continues to rise steadily. According to the latest statistics released by the government, in 2015 there were 147,010 deaths in the country. Of these 5,516 were reported to be euthanasia or assisted suicide (only 208 cases). This is rise of 4% over the figures for 2014.

Euthanasia is only available in the Netherlands if there is unbearable suffering. In most cases, the reported cause of suffering was cancer.

The most intriguing feature of the statistics was the steep rise in euthanasia for end-stage psychiatric disorders (56, up from 41 in 2014) and dementia (109, up from 81).

According to the Dutch protocols for euthanasia, each doctor is supposed to lodge a report with one of the five regional review committees. In 4 out of the 5,516 cases, the committees detected some irregularities, which will be investigated further.

One interesting feature of the statistics are 17 anonymized case studies (in Dutch) which are intended to demonstrate that doctors in the Netherlands take their due-diligence requirements very seriously. Verdict 2015-64, for instance, describes the case of a 20-30-year-old woman suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and refractory anorexia nervosa which began 15 years before after sexual abuse. The required two doctors concurred that she had made a voluntary and well-considered request, that there was no other reasonable solution, and that she was experiencing hopeless and unbearable suffering. 

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