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Twenty five years of requests for euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in Dutch general practice: trend analysis

‘Twenty five years of requests’ investigates the effect of increasing acceptance of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in the Netherlands on the number of, and underlying reasons for, requests for assistance from 1977 to 2001.

The study found the number of requests for euthanasia or physician assisted suicide increased in the first decade of registration in the Netherlands, but from 1995 onwards stabilised at approximately 5000 requests per year. It suggests the increase “probably reflected the process of liberalisation in the early years, boosted by broad publicity on lawsuits and the foundation of the Dutch Society for Voluntary Euthanasia. Mainly due to the activities of this society the number of living wills has increased substantially over the years.”

The study found that over the past twenty-five years, the willingness of physicians and the general public in the Netherlands to accept euthanasia and physician assisted suicide has increased, and this has resulted in the acceptance of a law which tolerates assisted dying carried out in compliance with strict regulations. Based on its findings, the study states there is no justification for fears that the lives of increasing numbers of patients would end through medical intervention, without their consent and before all palliative options were explored.

The study used data derived from the Dutch Sentinel Practice Network, which covers about 1% of the Dutch population and is considered “fairly representative” of the total population. It was prepared by R. L. Marquet, A. Bartelds, G. J. Visser, P. Spreeuwenberg, L. Peters – all of whom work for the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research.

To access the study go here .