One third of Dutch doctors would euthanize people with mental illness

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A study concerning the euthanasia practice in the Netherlands that was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics on February 18 found that 34% of Dutch doctors will consider euthanizing a person who is either mentally ill, living with dementia or "tired of living." This recent study proves that euthanasia is expanding and is contagious.

The researchers sent a questionnaire to 2269 eligible doctors with 1456 completing the questionnaire, a 64% response rate. 

The results of the questionnaire indicated that 34% of Dutch doctors would consider euthanasia for a person with mental illness, dementia or who claims to be "tired of living."

When examining the data further, the study of doctors in the Netherlands indicates that: 

  • 40% would lethally inject someone who is living with early stages of dementia, 
  • 33% would approve of euthanasia for someone in the late stages of dementia, 
  • 27% would euthanize a person who is "tired of living" if they had other conditions,
  • 18% would lethally inject a person who claims to be simply "tired of living."

The data confirms the trend found in the Dutch annual euthanasia reports. The 2013 annual report showed a 15% increase in the number of assisted deaths to 4829 reported deaths. A disturbing statistic in the report is that 42 people with “psychiatric problems” up from 14 in 2012 and 97 people with dementia up from 42 in 2012 died by euthanasia in 2013. It is predicted that about 6000 people died by euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2014 which is up from 2636 reported euthanasia deaths 5 years earlier in 2009.

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