Thursday January 7, 2010

Dutch Euthanasia Numbers Rise

However, numbers of deaths likely much higher than “official” number.

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

AMSTERDAM, January 7, 2010 ( – The official euthanasia monitoring body in the Netherlands has reported a significant increase in “mercy killing” deaths in 2009 compared to the previous year.

An article in the Dutch News reports that the number of registered cases of euthanasia rose by 200 to some 2,500 in 2009. The article also reports that, “It is not known how many cases of mercy killing there actually are in the Netherlands,” because only about “80% of instances are registered with the monitoring body.”

The figures for 2009 include six registered cases of euthanasia on elderly patients with senile dementia which the report says were “in the early stages and able to make their wishes known.”

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, commented on the new Dutch euthanasia figures, observing that the actual number of deaths is substantially higher because assisted suicide is a “separate category” in the Netherlands, as is euthanasia without explicit consent from the patient, such as infant euthanasia and terminal palliative sedation.

“In order to have an accurate picture of the number of deaths that are directly and intentionally caused by physicians in the Netherlands, you need to know that assisted suicide is a separate category in the Netherlands. Therefore you need to add the assisted suicide deaths to the number of euthanasia deaths. The number of assisted suicide deaths was not reported in the article but it is approximately 400 deaths each year,” Schadenberg explained.

“Another category of deaths is deaths without explicit consent. The most recent government report (2005) showed that the number of deaths without explicit consent was approximately 550. Many of the 550 deaths are directly and intentionally caused by the physician but not reported as euthanasia because they lacked consent.”

Dutch law requires that patients asking to be killed must be suffering unbearable pain, the doctor administering the lethal dose must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice, and a second doctor must concur with the opinion of the first.

Schadenberg points out that figures from 2007 indicate approximately 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands were connected to the practice of terminal sedation.

“Many of those deaths were caused by dehydration, by the physician sedating the patient and then withholding hydration until death occurs, which usually takes 10 – 14 days,” he said.

Schadenberg said the Netherlands does not collect information on how many people with disabilities die by euthanasia, nor was information provided in the government report on how many infants born with disabilities are euthanized based on the request of the parents and the agreement of the physician.

The Dutch News report “acknowledged that people with dementia are dying by euthanasia in the Netherlands, but the article didn’t mention how many infants died by euthanasia in 2009.”

“The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is wondering how many people with disabilities are coerced into death by euthanasia based on a false concept that living with a disability is a life of suffering,” Schadenberg said.