Govt stats show euthanasia rise in Netherlands

The number of official requests for euthanasia in the Netherlands increased by 10% in 2008 over the previous year, to 2,331, according to the latest government statistics. A total of 2,146 people were euthanased and 152 died in assisted suicides, while in 33 cases there was a combination of the two practices. Most people were suffering from cancer and most died at home. The figures come from an annual report published by five regional euthanasia monitoring committees.

Ten cases have been referred to the public prosecution department and health inspectorate for comment, because the official guidelines had not been followed. A 2002 Dutch law stipulated several criteria, including suffering unbearable pain, informed consent, and opinion of a second doctor. The doctor has to report his activities to a euthanasia vetting committee -- a lawyer, a doctor and an ethicist -- in his region, and they determine whether he or she acted within the law.

The committees acknowledge in their report that the rise in reported euthanasia is a puzzle. It speculates that the definition of euthanasia has become clearer in recent times, which encourages doctors to be more open about what they do. But it may also be possible that doctors are using terminal sedation more and not reporting it as euthanasia. ~ Radio Netherlands, May 29

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