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Euthanasia in Belgium: updates on a social experiment

Every two years the Belgium Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia presents a report detailing statistics and developments in the practice of euthanasia in Belgium.

The report is currently only available in French and Dutch. However, in this article, with the help of Google Translate the information from 2016 and 2017 has been extracted.

Overall, the impression is that euthanasia practice in Belgium continues on the path of normalising euthanasia as the go-to response to an ever increasing range of circumstances including children with disabilities, uncompleted suicides and victims of child abuse.

Increase in numbers

Deaths by legal euthanasia have increased nearly tenfold (982%) from 235 in 2003 – the first full year of legalisation – to 2,309 in 2017. From 2016 to 2017 alone the increase was 13.85%. Officially reported euthanasia accounted for 2.1% of all deaths in Belgium in 2017.[1]

Organ donation

The 2016-2017 report notes that some patients wish to donate their organs and help others in this way. Doctors are not required to mention organ donation in the document recording. Organ donation has been reported in 8 patients for the years 2016 – 2017. Patients had either a nervous system disorder or a mental and behavioral disorder. The majority of them were Dutch speakers, aged 50 to 69, female and their deaths were not expected in the near future.

Death not expected in the short term

In 2017 there were 375 cases of reported euthanasia of people whose deaths were not expected in the near future. This represents 16.2% of all cases of reported euthanasia.[2]

In 2017 there were 181 cases of reported euthanasia for “polypathology” – two or more conditions none of which in itself is sufficient ground for euthanasia – where death was not expected soon, accounting for 7.83% of all reported cases. This represents a 69.1% increase in just two years from 2015.[3]

In 27 (7.2%) of these cases the mandatory one-month waiting period between the written request for euthanasia and its execution was not complied with by the euthanasing doctor. The Euthanasia Evaluation and Control Commission took no action on these cases other than sending the offending doctor “a didactic letter to remind the doctor of the procedure to be followed in case of unexpected death in the short term”. [4]

Read more at Mercatornet. 

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