In total, 456 people have registered with a special clinic set up by the voluntary euthanasia society NVVE in March this year.
After an initial peak in inquires at the time of the launch, the clinic now deals with around three inquiries a week, the NVVE said in a report on the way the clinic has functioned so far. It was set up to help people whose own doctors are opposed to euthanasia or do not think they meet the criteria.
Of the 456 inquiries this year, 51 people have been helped to end their lives, the NVVE said. In 30 cases, the doctor did agree to step in after the NVVE’s involvement. A further 94 requests for help were rejected because the patient did not meet the criteria and 54 died before the clinic could take action. No action has yet been taken on the rest.
While terminal cancer is the most common reason patients give for wanting euthanasia on a national scale, the clinic has had few advanced cancer cases to deal with and most inquiries are for ‘non-life threatening’ problems, the report says.
More than half the inquiries are from people with serious physical problems and around one third have psychiatric problems. Some 7% want help in ending their life because they have dementia and 10% say their life has run its course.
Most inquiries – 68% – come from the over 60s while almost one in five were under the age of 30.
Assisted suicide accounts for around 2.8% of all deaths in the Netherlands. Euthanasia is legal under strict conditions. For example, the patient must be ‘suffering unbearably’ and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required.