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May 6, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A record number of almost 7,000 people killed themselves in the Netherlands last year by means of legal euthanasia, with some choosing death out of despair after contracting COVID-19.

The Regional Euthanasia Review Committees (RTE), which keeps track of such deaths and monitors whether the criteria for who is eligible have been met, registered 6,938 deaths last year, which marks a little over a 9 percent increase compared with 2019.

The previous peak was 6,585 deaths in 2017. Numbers fell in 2018 to 6,126 deaths, likely due to the prosecution of euthanasia doctors in the Netherlands and Belgium that proved unsuccessful.

RTE chairman Jeroen Recourt told Trouw that he is not surprised by the record number of euthanasia cases.

“These figures are part of a larger development,” he said. “More and more generations see euthanasia as a solution for unbearable suffering.” He added that the “idea that euthanasia is an option in case of hopeless suffering gives (people) a lot of peace.”

A cancer diagnosis was the most common reason (5,000 cases) for requesting euthanasia.

In four of the cases, people chose death on account of suffering caused by the coronavirus.

“They had become seriously ill due to the virus,” Recourt said to Trouw. “These elderly people contracted pneumonia, for example, but did not want to go to intensive care. Or they ended up in a rehabilitation center very weak.” Recourt said that dying from COVID-19 can be terrible and that these people “wanted to avoid that.”

Coronavirus statistics show, however, that the vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 make a full recovery with only a small percentage requiring any kind of medical care.

The Netherlands has allowed euthanasia since 2002 under certain conditions, such as when the patient’s suffering is unbearable, there is no prospect of improvement, and the patient gives consent to die. The so-called slippery slope of who is eligible for death has brought the country to now include “mental and psychosocial ailments” such as “loss of function, loneliness and loss of autonomy” as acceptable criteria for euthanasia.

In October, the government announced that it will draft legislation to allow children to legally undergo doctor-assisted suicide with parental consent. The country is also considering expanding its euthanasia criteria to include people with no medical issues but are “tired of living.”