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Assisted dying in the Benelux

A whitepaper is published by Neil Francis of Dying for Choice Australia, providing comprehensive insight into assisted dying practice in Benelux. Francis concludes that rates of assisted dying in the Netherlands and Belgium have followed an expected sigmoid curve, now beginning to level out. Several factors have contributed to the higher increase in the Netherlands rate, including recovery from a suppression of cases immediately following statutory reform, a rise in cancer diagnoses, and an increase in granting of assisted dying through the Life End Clinic launched in 2012. Both Netherlands and Belgium doctors demonstrate caution if not conservatism when assessing assisted dying requests. 

Despite most assisted dying occurs in cases of cancer, fewer than 1 in 10 cancer deaths in the Netherlands and 1 in 20 in Belgium is an assisted death. Other conditions such as degenerative neurological, pulmonary and circulatory illnesses each account for a very small proportion of the increase in cases since legalisation in Benelux. Also the assisted dying rate in dementia and other mental illness is very low, despite controversy around—and a tiny rise in granting of—such cases. 

The hypothesis that females or the elderly would be ‘vulnerable’ to assisted dying law is contradicted by the data. The rate of non-voluntary euthanasia has decreased significantly in both the Netherlands and Belgium since assisted dying was permitted by statute. Assisted dying rates in Dutch-speaking cultures are significantly higher than in non-Dutch cultures, seemingly unrelated to the permissiveness of the jurisdiction’s legal framework.

The full copy of the whitepaper, published by Dying for Choice, can be found here.