Tuesday 25 September 2012

Patients with dementia and psychiatric illnesses included as Dutch euthanasia cases rise steeply

According to Dutch media reports today, euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2011 increased by 18% to 3,695. This follows increases of 13% in 2009 and 19% in 2010.

In fact from 2006 to 2011 there has been a steady increase in numbers each year with successive annual deaths at 1923, 2120, 2331, 2636, 3136 and 3695.

Euthanasia now accounts for 2.8% of all Dutch deaths.

In addition euthanasia for people with early dementia doubled to 49 last year and 13 psychiatric patients were euthanized, an increase of over 500% on the two reported in 2010.

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

On July 11, 2012, The Lancet published a long awaited 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 that year was in fact not 3136 but 3859.

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 reported recently, 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 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.

I have never been convinced by the term ‘slippery slope’ which implies passive change over time. What we are seeing in the Netherlands is more accurately termed 'incremental extension', the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included.

I recently described the similar steep increase of cases of assisted suicide in Oregon (450% since 1998) and Switzerland (700% over the same period).

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

There is more analysis of the latest Dutch figures on Alex Schadenberg’s blog.


  1. The number of euthanasia deaths exceeds 2.8%. The number of unreported euthanasia deaths + the number of assisted suicide deaths will make the total assisted deaths at least 3.5% of all deaths.

  2. What do you mean by the word "euthanasia"?

    Are these numbers you report related to physician aided (performed) termination of life where the patient has had no say whatsoever (murder would be the correct word) or do they relate to people asking for termination of their own lives either just prior to the termination or as a result of some documented testament?

  3. I can't actually find any argumentation in this post by Saunders.

    It just seems to declare that "euthanasia" (which I presume is the patient requested termination of their unbearable lives) ... is *BAD* and that a higher number is ... *WORSE*.

    If there are 50,000 people who are suffering unbearable lives that may shortly end, then 3000 people actually choosing to end their lives means that 47,000 are choosing to let their lives end as a result of no intervention (their very good right of course).

    Where is the balance or frame of reference to this post? Is it merely "Jesus doesn't want euthanasia"?

    1. To clarify: euthanasia is bad. Increasing rates of euthanasia mean the problem is getting worse. Thou shalt not kill doesn't just apply to Jews, but to all mankind.

  4. "Once you relax the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide steady extension will follow as night flows day."

    This, as I argue above, just doesn't make any contribution to the issues surrounding euthansia. You could just as easily say "once people are aware of their rights to end their own lives when their health and well-being is unbearable, then more and more of them will choose this path".

    It seems that Saunders likes to post things without there being any rationale to it as is evidenced by this and his "Beethoven myth" post.

  5. On the Dutch statistics site "Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek" - a government site, there is a page reporting "died, on account of medical decision, around end of life". It reports the following:

    in 2001 there were 3,444 deaths in total for all age groups and all medical carers

    in 2005 there were fewer - 2.297

    in 2010 there were more - 3,859

    There are no figures for 2011 so I am wondering where DutchNews is getting its facts.

    Note that there is a decrease between 2001 and 2005 of around 30%! There is a small increase between 2001 and 2010. A big increase between 2005 and 2010.

    For the age groups 17 to 80 years old, the "trend" (it is not a trend in any real sense) above can largely be found. In general, there is nothing much to say other than a statistical deviation is evident.

    I don't see any slippery slope.

    No exponential upward trend over the years.

    I see Saunders is up to his normal tricks again.

    Reporting stuff without checking it up before he claims that "it doesn't matter about the facts; euthanasia is bad!"

  6. According to Dutch media reports today, euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2011 increased by 18% to 3,695. This follows increases of 13% in 2009 and 19% in 2010.

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