Monday 29 September 2014

Euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands continue their relentless rise

According to Dutch media reports today, euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2013 increased by 15% to 4,829. This follows increases of 13% in 2009, 19% in 2010,18% in 2011 and 13% in 2012.

In fact from 2006 to 2013 there has been a steady increase in numbers each year with successive annual deaths at 1923, 2120, 2331, 2636, 3136, 3695, 4,188 and 4,829 – an overall increase of 151% in just seven years.

Almost 3,600 people were helped to die because they had cancer, the report said.

Euthanasia now accounts for over 3% of all Dutch deaths.

In total, there were 42 reports of people who underwent euthanasia because they suffered severe psychiatric problems, compared with 14 in 2012 and 13 in 2011.

Dementia was the reason behind 97 cases, mainly early stage dementia in which patients were able to properly communicate their wish to die.

There were five cases in 2013 where doctors were reprimanded for not properly following the protocol. None of these led to legal action.

But as alarming as these statistics may seem they tell only part of the full story.

On 11 July 2012, The Lancet published a meta-analysis study concerning the practice of euthanasia and end-of-life practices in the Netherlands in 2010 with a comparison to previous studies done in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2005. 

The Lancet study indicated that in 2010, 23% of all euthanasia deaths were not reported meaning that the total number of deaths last year may not have been 4,829 but rather 5,939. 

The 2001 euthanasia report also indicated that about 5.6% of all deaths in the Netherlands were related to deep-continuous sedation. This rose to 8.2% in 2005 and 12.3% in 2010. 

A significant proportion of these deaths involve doctors deeply sedating patients and then withholding fluids with the explicit intention that they will die. 

As I have reported previously, although official euthanasia deaths are rising year by year in the Netherlands, these deaths represent only a fraction of the total number of deaths resulting from Dutch doctors intentionally ending their patients’ lives through deliberate morphine overdose, withdrawal of hydration and sedation. 

Euthanasia in the Netherlands is way out of control. 

The House of Lords calculated in 2005 that with a Dutch-type law in Britain we would be seeing over 13,000 cases of euthanasia per year. On the basis of how Dutch euthanasia deaths have risen since this may prove to be a gross underestimate. 

What we are seeing in the Netherlands is 'incremental extension', the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included. 

previously described the similar steep increase of cases of assisted suicide in Oregon (450% since 1998), Switzerland (700% over the same period) and Belgium (509% in ten years from 2003 to 2012).

The lessons are clear. Once you relax the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide steady extension will follow as night follows day. 

Britain needs to take warning as debate on the Falconer bill continues.  


  1. Peter Thanks for this. Do you have any evidence that this increase is due to creeping indications for euthanasia compared to when the law was first introduced, or is it just 'popularity'? Phil Clayton

    1. I think it is both. There is evidence of spread to categories of people outside the provisions of the law - with no prosecutions - and also evidence that the public conscience is changing and euthanasia is being seen increasingly as a legitimate lifestyle choice and a way of dealing with life's problems.

    2. May I suggest that as the population age increases - and more people entering that stage of their lives, it would be natural for people to think about euthanasia as ill health follows. Just wait for the next 10 year figures to come in.

    3. Have the legal indications actually broadened through the courts from when the law was first passed? That is, more groups of people can be legally euthanased now than 2006 due to legal challenges?

  2. Interesting to note that since the Netherlands legalized Euthanasia, 22,222 people have been killed by it. That is a large number for such a small country. Large numbers frighten me especially if they are applied to large Countries like the USA. I try to imagine what the number would be if extrapolated to the American model and it scares me.

  3. As I have said before, all this proves is that palliative care is woefully inadequate.


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