The number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands fell sharply in the four years since the introduction of new legislation, according to figures to be presented to junior health minister Jet Bussemaker today.
In 2001, 3,500 cases of euthanasia were recorded compared with 2,300 in 2005. Euthanasia is defined as the administration of a fatal substance by a doctor at the express request of a patient.
At the same time, cases of ‘palliative sedation’ rose 11% to 9,600 in 2005 from 8,500 four years earlier. Palliative sedation involves the administration of a sedative to a patient who is expected to die within two weeks with the aim of making death painless.
A ministry spokesman has confirmed the figures which were compiled to evaluate the euthanasia law, which came into effect in 2002, said ANP news agency.
The law states a number of criteria which must be met before euthanasia can be administered. For example, the patient must be suffering unbearable pain and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required and the case must be reported to a special committee.
According to the new figures, around 80% of euthanasia cases were reported in 2005 compared with 54% in 2001. The Volksrant newspaper says the special committee asked for further information in 6% of these cases.
The paper says that the ChristenUnie, traditionally against euthanasia, is satisfied with the reduction in the number of euthanasia cases.
But the Socialist Party’s MP Agnes Kant told the paper: ‘Palliative sedation is easier for doctors. There is no control by the euthanasia committee and it is emotionally easier too. But it doctors should not insist on palliative sedation just to make it easier on themselves.’
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