The number of reports of euthanasia in the Netherlands fell last year for the first time in 10 years, the regional monitoring committee RTE said on Thursday, confirming figures published last October.
The reason for the 7% drop is unclear, and health minister Hugo de Jonge told MPs last year, when the decline first became apparent, that he had commissioned a report to try to establish what has changed. That report is due later this year.
Some had argued that a number of high profile cases involving the public prosecution department may have made doctors more wary.
However, the new report shows just six of the 6,126 registered cases last year were classed as problematic and two of the total of five cases referred to the public prosecution department have been dropped.
And while the debate about euthanasia often focuses on psychiatric patients and people with severe dementia, in over 90% of cases, patients are suffering from cancer or other terminal or untreatable illnesses, RTE chairman Jacob Kohnstamm said.
Of the cases reported to the committee last year, 146 concerned people with dementia and 67 people had severe psychiatric problems. In 205 cases, patients had multiple problems derived from the ageing process.
Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under strict conditions. 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.
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