The first five years of euthanasia legislation in Belgium and the Netherlands: description and comparison of cases.
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Palliative medicine, Volume 26, Issue 1, p.43-9 (2012)
The Netherlands and Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002.
In this study we describe and compare cases of reported euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the first 5 years of legislation. Design/Setting/participants: The databases of the cases reported in Belgium and the Netherlands were made available by the review committees. We compared characteristics of all cases reported between September 2002-December 2007.
In the Netherlands 10,319 cases were reported, in Belgium 1917. Gender and age distributions were similar in both countries. Most patients suffered from cancer (83-87%), but patients more often suffered from diseases of the nervous system in Belgium (8.3% vs. 3.9%). In the Netherlands, reported euthanasia more often occurred at home compared with Belgium (81% vs. 42%), where it occurred more often in hospital (52% vs. 9%). In the Netherlands, all cases were based on the oral request of a competent patient. In Belgium, 2.1% of the reported cases was based on an advance directive.
We conclude that countries debating legislation must realise that the rules and procedures for euthanasia they would agree upon and the way they are codified or not into law may influence the practice that develops once the legislation is effected or what part of that practice is reported.