An annual report 2015 of the regional committees monitoring euthanasia in the Netherlands reveals a 50% increase in the number of euthanasia and assisted suicides since 2011. In 2015, of about 147,010 deceased that year, 5,516 were deaths related to euthanasia or assisted suicide. Euthanasia is death directly brought about by physicians, whereas in assisted suicide they attend and provide a prescription, for example, to the patient who is actively seeking his or her own demise.
The report also notes a "significant increase in euthanasia declarations of dementia or psychiatric disorders," which amounted to 165 cases against 122 in 2014. For these patients, "the doctor usually killed the patient in the first stage of the process of degeneration," the latter being "sufficiently aware of his actions." However, "in some cases, more advanced dementia patients have still been euthanized."
Moreover, in four cases, "the regional monitoring committees found that the physician had not complied with certain legal requirements governing the practice of euthanasia."
Currently, approximately 4% of the deaths in the Netherlands are attributable to euthanasia, according to the Institut Européen de Bioéthique.
According to official statistics, the number of mental health patients killed by euthanasia in the Netherlands has quadrupled from 13 to 56 in the last four years. Statistics show that 56 people received a lethal injection in 2015 because they were suffering “unbearably” from psychiatric problems. For 2011, there were just 13 such deaths recorded, meaning that euthanasia among the mentally ill has soared by more than 330 per cent in the following four-year period. The new figures also show a 35 per cent increase in the numbers of dementia patients being killed in the space of one year, with cases leaping from 81 in 2014 to 109 in 2015.
The number of Dutch euthanasia deaths increased to under four per cent (from 5,306 to 5,561), the latest figure shows a leap in euthanasia deaths of 50 per cent in the last five years.
The law permits euthanasia in cases of “unbearable suffering”, but most involve people with incurable cancer. However, regulators found “irregularities” in four cases documented by the Dutch government and these will be investigated further. Human rights campaigners in the Netherlands and the UK were disturbed by the rise of people suffering dementia or mental illness being killed.
Statistics showing the huge increase in euthanasia deaths among psychiatric patients comes months after a study revealed that a majority of people killed because of mental health problems had complained of “social isolation.” American researchers found that loneliness was a motivation behind the euthanasia requests of 37 of 66 cases reviewed, a figure representing 56 per cent of the total. The study by the National Institutes of Health cited the case of a woman of good mental and physical health who was killed by lethal injection because she felt lonely following the death of her husband a year earlier, leading to claims that the Netherlands is operating a de facto policy of euthanasia on demand.
Because changes in the Netherlands’ rules give doctors greater freedom to kill patients, the number of the mentally ill to be killed through euthanasia is expected to rise. Government rules allows doctors to give lethal injections to patients who were no longer capable of expressing a desire to either live or die. The patient must, however, have signed an advance directive, or “living will”, requesting euthanasia at a time when they still had mental capacity. In the past, the rules insisted that a person could only qualify for euthanasia when they could give their full consent. The Dutch government is expected to follow of neighboring Belgium and allow euthanasia for children.
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