Record number of euthanasia requests at expertise center

An electronic stethoscope
An electronic stethoscopeStethoscopes / Wikimedia Commons

The Euthanasia Expertise Center received a record number of 3,122 requests for help last year, an increase of 22 percent compared to 2018. "Every working day, 13 people come to us and say: Help me, I can't go on. The need is great," Steven Pleiter, director of the center, said to NOS.

It is especially complex requests for euthanasia - due to dementia, old age and psychiatric issues - that end up at the Expertise Center, which was created as a safety nets for patients whose own doctors do not want to consider their euthanasia requests. Of the requests for help received last year, 29 percent or 898 were granted. That is a comparable percentage to the year before. 

In 2017 and 2018, the number of requests for help at the Euthanasia Expertise Center, which used to be called the End of Life Clinic, stabilized for the first time. But halfway through last year, there was a sharp spike in requests. In July, the center received over 300 requests for help in a month for the same time. That happened in October.

Like the healthcare sector in general, the Expertise Center is facing staff shortages. "We currently have vacancies on all fronts: doctors, psychiatrists and nurses." The shortage of psychiatrists is particularly harrowing, and the doctor shortage is biggest in The Hague and Rotterdam regions.

Partly due to the staff shortages, the waiting time for a euthanasia trajectory due to psychiatric problems has increased to a year or more. The trajectories for euthanasia due to other complaints are much shorter - the process is usually started within 15 days of a request.