28 February 2019: EUTHANASIA – Figures for the year 2018
The figures relate to the registration documents of patients undergoing euthanasia that were examined by the Commission in the period between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2018. A detailed analysis of the indicated euthanasia in 2018 will be available in the Commission’s biennial report (this covers all data from 2018 and 2019).
In the period 2018, 2357 euthanasia were registered. The vast majority of these documents were Dutch-speaking. This mainly concerned patients between the ages of 60 and 89 and slightly more female patients. Home was the most important place of execution.
The main categories of conditions that gave rise to euthanasia were either malignancies (cancers) or a combination of several severe and incurable diseases (polypathology) that were unlikely to improve and that caused severe disabilities to organ failure. In the vast majority of patients, death was expected within the foreseeable future (terminal patients). In the group of patients whose death was not expected within the foreseeable future (non-terminal patients), the patients who were most highly represented in polypathology, while cancer patients were extremely rarely considered non-terminal. Requests for euthanasia based on mental and behavioral disorders (psychiatric disorders) remained exceptional (2.4% of all euthanasia). In all these cases it could be established that the legal conditions were met (a competent patient, a written request, a medically hopeless condition, unbearable persistent and inadequate suffering caused by a serious and incurable disease, a repeated request. In 2018 no registration documents regarding euthanasia were recorded for judicious under-aged patients.
The Commission considered that all statements received met the essential requirements of the law. That is why it was not necessary to send a file to the public prosecutor for further investigation.
In 2018, the Commission received 2357 registration documents on euthanasia. The number of registered euthanasia cases remained stable (an increase of only 1.8%). The number of French-language documents continued to increase (76% NL / 24% FR).
67.1% of patients were older than 70 years and 41% were older than 80 years. The number of euthanasia in patients younger than 40 years remained very limited (1.7%). It was mainly patients in the 6th, 7th, and 8th life decades who demanded euthanasia (75.8%). The largest group were patients between 80 and 89 years (29.9%). In 2018 no registration documents regarding euthanasia were recorded for judicious under-aged patients.
The number of euthanasia performed at home (46.8%) continued to increase, while the number of euthanasia performed in hospitals was still decreasing. (36.1%). The number of euthanasia in nursing and care homes (WZC) continued to increase (14.3%). This is in line with the wish of many patients to be allowed to die at home.
In the majority of cases (85.4%), the doctor expected the death within the foreseeable future (terminal patient). In the majority of patients, both physical and psychological suffering (not to be confused with psychiatric disorders) was observed (78.7%). This suffering was always the result of one or more serious and incurable disorders. Less than 1% of euthanasia was performed on the basis of a prior declaration of will euthanasia and this in patients who were irreversibly unconscious.
The main categories that formed the basis for the euthanasia performed were mainly new formations / cancer (61.4%), polypathology (18.6%) and diseases of the nervous system. (8.3%), diseases of the circulatory system (3.8%), diseases of the respiratory tract (2.4%) and psychological and behavioral disorders (2.4%).