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Palliative Care and Physician Aid in Dying – a Benelux experience

(from BioEdge; Xavier Simons) A recent paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics says ‘no’. The paper – published by a team of researchers from Belgium’s End of Life Care Research Group – compares the development of palliative care (PC) in countries where euthanasia is legal to countries where it is not. The results, they said, were surprising. The rate of increase in the number of structural PC provisions was highest in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Belgium stayed on par with the UK in its development of palliative care availability. Furthermore, Belgian government expenditure for PC doubled between 2002 and 2011.

The authors tentatively suggest that concerns about effects on palliative care are unfounded: “Does adding the ‘antibiotic’ of PAD to the Petri dish of society inhibit growth of PC resources and services? The Benelux data do not verify this concern.”

But while these findings are significant, the authors still note that only one in four of the top countries for palliative care provision in the EU is a country that allows euthanasia (Belgium). In the other three top countries, Iceland, the UK and Sweden, the procedure remains illegal.