There is no evidence that the number of dementia patients opting for euthanasia rose last year from the 49 cases recorded in 2011, according to preliminary figures.
Newspaper Trouw reports that last year’s figure is ‘not higher’ than 2011, which saw a doubling of cases compared with 2010. The figures come from the regional euthanasia monitoring boards and have not yet been finalised.
The paper also reports that health minister Edith Schippers and the national doctors association KNMG are setting up a joint commitee to look at the issues surrounding euthanasia and dementia patients in more depth.
In particular, the committee will look at problems stemming from living wills in which people express their desire to be helped to die when their dementia becomes serious.
In Dutch euthanasia legislation, patients must be able to express their desire to end their lives, but this is not possible with many dementia patients, the KNMG says.
Assisted suicide now accounts for 2.8% of all deaths in the Netherlands, researchers from four Dutch teaching hospitals and the national statistics office CBS found last year.
Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands 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.
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