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Most euthanasia deaths linked to loneliness, says Dutch study

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MPs raise concerns after researchers find ‘social isolation’ was a factor in majority of requests

A majority of people killed by euthanasia in the Netherlands for so-called psychiatric reasons had complained of loneliness, a new study has found.

Researchers in the U.S. found that loneliness, or “social isolation”, was a key 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 Institute of Health also revealed that the Netherlands was operating a de facto policy of euthanasia on demand, with patients “shopping” for doctors willing to give them a lethal injection for the most trivial of reasons.

Many of them used euthanasia clinics and mobile units willing to over-ride decisions of family doctors who believed that a death wish could not be justified.

The research, led by Dr Scott Kim, 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.

The killings, which were carried out between 2011 and 2014, were permitted even though a person can qualify for euthanasia under Dutch law only if they are suffering unbearably from an untreatable condition.

The research published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal led to renewed warnings from UK politicians and campaigners that it was not possible to effectively regulate either euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Lib Dem peer who is a patron of the Living and Dying Well think-tank, said: “It’s another example of the very poor way in which this scheme is administered in the Netherlands.

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