Euthanasia was never so popular in the Netherlands


Western Europe


Photo ANP, Roos Koole

Never before have so many euthanasia deaths been reported in the Netherlands as in 2021, according to the annual report of the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees (RTE).

A total of 7,666 patients were killed in 2021, an increase of 10.5 per cent compared to the previous year. In 2020 there was already an increase of 9 per cent compared to 2019. This increase does not surprise medical ethicist Theo Boer of the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam. No one can deny that the legalization of euthanasia has created a dynamic of its own. Euthanasia is no longer just for emergencies, but has become an ordinary option”, Boer says to the Dutch Christian daily Nederlands Dagblad.

In the case of euthanasia, a doctor gives a seriously ill patient a lethal drug on request via IV or in the form of a drink.


The annual report shows an above-average increase in euthanasia registrations related to patients with dementia (up 20 per cent to 215) or patients with a psychiatric condition (up 30 per cent to 115). Of the 125 reports about dementia, six related to patients with advanced dementia who had drawn up a written advance directive at an earlier stage of life.

The report furthermore states that not every euthanasia was executed correctly. The committee qualified at least three of them as careless. This reports Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad.

One report concerns a patient with a borderline personality disorder. The doctor who granted her request for euthanasia had an independent psychiatrist perform a mental assessment but failed to ask this independent expert for a second opinion regarding the hopelessness of the suffering and whether or not a reasonable alternative solution was available. According to the doctor, the consultant she consulted had not pointed out the need for this. Nevertheless, the review committee finds her approach careless.

A second doctor also failed to consult an independent expert. She failed to ask for a second opinion on the mental capacity of a patient who had post-traumatic stress disorder.

A third doctor, who granted a request for euthanasia from a man with unexplained somatic complaints, did not have an independent assessment done by an external psychiatrist. After consulting with a consultant, who called such an assessment a passing point, she limited herself to a meeting with the treating psychiatrist. The verdict is too brief and, therefore, also considered to be careless. The three files are forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service.


The annual report reports that one euthanasia involved a minor. It concerns a boy somewhere between 16 and 18 years old who suffered from an untreatable, aggressive brain tumour.

Jeroen Recourt, chairman of the committee, expected the increase of over 10 per cent. He says so in Dutch daily Trouw. “In recent years we usually see an increase of 10 per cent. This will also continue in the first months of 2022.”

In the Netherlands, euthanasia and assisted suicide is legal if the patient is enduring unbearable suffering and there is no prospect of improvement. Anyone from the age of 12 can request this, but parental consent is required if a child is under 16.



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