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Dutch euthanasia cases increased in ’09

WASHINGTON (BP)–Euthanasia cases in The Netherlands continued to increase in 2009.

The number of reported cases of euthanasia in the European country increased by 200 to about 2,500, Dutch News reported. That figure is likely low. Experts said in 2007 about 80 percent of such deaths are officially reported, according to Dutch News.

Euthanasia involves the deliberate administration of drugs to cause a person’s death at his request rather than to relieve his suffering.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-Canada, pointed in his Jan. 4 weblog to a number of ways in which the figure of 2,500 euthanasia deaths in 2009 is misleading.

For one, assisted suicide deaths are not included, and they would account for about 400 more each year, Schadenberg said.

“Another category of deaths is deaths without explicit consent,” he wrote. “The most recent government report (2005) showed that the number of deaths without explicit consent was approximately 550. Many of the 550 deaths are directly and intentionally caused by the physician but not reported as euthanasia because they lacked consent.”

Schadenberg also said a 2007 report showed about 10 percent of all deaths in The Netherlands were related to terminal sedation. “Many of those deaths were caused by dehydration, due to the physician sedating the patient and then withholding hydration until death occurs, which usually takes 10 [to] 14 days,” he said.

“Finally, the [Dutch News] article acknowledged that people with dementia are dying by euthanasia in [The] Netherlands, but the article didn’t mention how many infants died by euthanasia in 2009,” Schadenberg said. “The Groningen Protocol allows infants who are born with disabilities to die by euthanasia based on the request of the parents and the agreement of the physician.”

The Groningen Protocol consists of guidelines for killing babies with disabilities or terminal illnesses.

The Netherlands is one of three countries in which doctors can legally administer drugs to kill patients. The others are Belgium and Luxembourg. In addition, Switzerland allows physician-assisted suicide, which involves a doctor prescribing but not administering the lethal drugs.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.