End of Life clinic sees 15% rise in euthanasia requests

The number of euthanasia requests submitted to the End of Life Clinic in The Hague this year increased by 15 percent compared to last year. According to the clinic, officially called the Euthanasia Expertise Center from Wednesday, the increase is due to the judiciary's harsher attitude towards euthanasia, the Volkskrant reports.

The clinic was established in 2012 as a safety net for patients whose own doctor will not listen to their request for euthanasia. A few ears ago the number of euthanasia requests to the clinic seemed to stabilize at around 210 a month. Since the start of this year, the number of requests averaged at 256 a month, with a record of 308 requests in July. 

"Doctors have become more anxious", director Steven Pleiter of the Euthanasia Expertise Center said to the newspaper. "They are sending more patients to us." The clinic contacts each doctor who refuses a euthanasia request, to find out why. Uncertainty is currently a big reason, according to Pleiter. "We were recently called by a doctor who has performed euthanasia multiple times. He said: can you please guide me? He no longer felt sure. And he's not the only one."

The unrest among doctors began in 2017 when the Public Prosecution Service launched a criminal investigation into a doctor who performed euthanasia on a 74-year-old woman with advanced dementia. When she was still lucid, the woman indicated that she wanted euthanasia when the time was "right", but after her admittance to a nursing home she made contrary statements. The doctor eventually performed the euthanasia, in consultation with the woman's family. He was charged with murder and had to appear in court last week.

This case stemmed from the judiciary's desire for clearer standards around more complex euthanasia cases. Three other criminal investigations are currently underway, including two into a doctor at the End-of-Life clinic, according to the newspaper. 

A doctor who was subject to a judicial investigation recently warned his colleagues about the judiciary in a article published in Medisch Contact. "Be careful with what you provide in reports", he wrote. "In your honesty and sincerity you give everything you have. In a criminal case, that is immediately 'evidence'." The case against him was dismissed, but it affected im deeply. "As a doctor, you have no idea what can happen to you."

According to the Dutch association for a voluntary end of life NVVE, there can be multiple reasons fro the increase in the number of requests to the Euthanasia Expertise Center. For example, the number of complex cases may be on the rise. "Bit if this has to do with the attitude of the judiciary and fewer people can go to their own doctor, with whom they have the best relationship, then this is out and out sad", chairman Agnes Wolbert said to the newspaper.