Euthanasia rose to all-time high last year
In 2021, more people than ever before chose death by euthanasia in the Netherlands, Trouw reports. Based on numbers given by the Regional Euthanasia Review Committee (RTE), 7,666 seriously ill patients received euthanasia, accounting for 4.5 percent of all deaths.
The vast majority of those who chose euthanasia were cancer patients, according to a report from RTE. Other common illnesses included nervous system disorders such as Parkinson's or ALS, cardiovascular diseases and lung disorders.
The number of dementia patients who received euthanasia has been growing slightly overtime, according to Trouw –– last year, 215 dementia patients were euthanized. Six of these patients were in such advanced stages of dementia they could no longer ask for euthanasia, but it was given to them based on previous requests they had put in writing. This is in keeping with guidelines that were modified in 2021 to allow doctors to provide euthanasia to dementia patients who had requested life-ending treatment while still lucid.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic posing a major concern in 2021, experts say the virus and the restrictions it brought did not play a role in the increased in euthanasia, according to Trouw. “I can't get that from the hundreds of files I've handled myself," Jeroen Recourt, chair of RTE, told Trouw. "In them I sometimes read that the coronavirus time was an annoying time, that people could not see their children. But that was not the reason for euthanasia. Loneliness should never be the reason."
People are becoming more supportive of euthanasia in general, according to Trouw. However, the Dutch Christian Patients Association (NPV) expressed concern about the higher number of euthanized patients in 2021 and questioned whether it could be related to lack of support or fear of death.
Recourt called it "societally very relevant" to know the reason behind the increase. “The fact that people choose to have their own control over death is in keeping with an individualized society," he said. "That is certainly an element."
However, there is also a possibility that "alternative are not readily available," Recourt said. A scientific committee will look over the euthanasia law next year, according to Trouw.