New study: Euthanasia represents 4.6% of all deaths in Flanders Belgium in 2013, deaths without patient request continue

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director and International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) (March 17, 2015) published the basic statistics related to a new study titled: Recent Trends in Euthanasia and Other End-of-Life Practices in Belgium.

Similar to previous studies, this study sent questionnaires to 6188 physicians in Flanders Belgium, who had certified death certificates in the first half of 2013. The study received a 60.6% response rate by receiving 3751 returned questionnaires.

The data indicates that: 

1. The percentage of euthanasia deaths increased from 1.9% of all deaths in 2007 to 4.6% of all deaths in 2013 representing a 242% increase in 6 years. 
2. The percentage of assisted suicide deaths decreased from .07% of all deaths in 2007 to .05% of all deaths in 2013 representing no statistical change. 
3. The percentage of requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide increased from 3.5% of all deaths in 2007 to 6.0% of all deaths in 2013
4. The percentage of requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide that were granted increased from 56.3% in 2007 to 76.8% in 2013.

A significant and continuous problem is the number of hastened deaths without explicit request from the patient in Belgium.

In 2007, 1.8% of the hastened deaths were without explicit request while in 2013, 1.7% of the hastened deaths were without explicit request.

Further research needs to be done concerning these deaths. In 2007, approximately 1 in 3 hastened deaths without explicit request were done by euthanasia. The basic statistics that were published in this NEJM report does not indicate the percentage of hastened deaths without request that were euthanasia.

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