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Belgian euthanasia numbers of 2020 released

The Belgian Federal Review Commission published a press release about the euthanasia numbers of 2020.

Some numbers

In 2020, the Commission received the 2.444 registration documents. The number of registered euthanasia decreased by 7.9% compared to the previous year (2656 in 2019). The ratio between the number of Dutch and French-language documents remained stable (75.1% NL / 24.9% FR). 66.6% of the patients were older than 70 years and 37.8% were older than 80 years. The number of euthanasia in patients under 40 years of age remained very limited (0.9%). It was mainly patients in the 6th, 7th, and 8th decade of life who died asked for euthanasia (77.1%). The largest group were patients between 70 and 79 years (28.8%). The number of euthanasia performed at home is increasing (54.2%), on the other hand, the number of euthanasia performed decreased performed in hospitals (30.9%) and in residential care centers (12.3%) slightly.

The main categories that formed the basis of the performed euthanasia were neoplasms / cancer (64.2%), polypathology (17.2%) and nervous system diseases (7.7%), circulatory system diseases (3.4%), respiratory diseases (2.7%), psychiatric disorders (0.9%), cognitive disorders (0.9%) and diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (0.6%). All other categories together represent 2.4% of the disorders.

In the majority of cases (87.3%), the doctor expected death within a foreseeable period (terminal patient). Less than 1% of euthanasia was performed on the basis of prior living will and this in patients who were irreversibly unconscious. Requests for euthanasia based on mental and behavioral disorders (psychiatric conditions such as mood disorders and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease are collected in this group) remained exceptional (1.8% of all euthanasia).

In all these cases it could be ascertained that the legal conditions were met (a patient with a competence, a written request, a medically hopeless condition, unbearable, persistent and unacceptable suffering caused by a serious and incurable disease, a repeated request. In 2019, no registration document was issued regarding euthanasia in judicious underage patients registered. The Commission considered that all statements received complied with the essential requirements of the law. Therefore there was no need to send a file to the public prosecutor for further investigation.