News from Europe

Euthanasia cases increase by 15% in Belgium since last year


The European Institute of Bioethics released a report on the 27th of February, which raises awareness of alarmingly great numbers of euthanasia cases.

Based on the figures there has been a 15% increase in the number of citizens who ended their lives by assisted dying in 2023. Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002. 

2022 saw 2,966 assisted deaths, and the number increased to 3,423 in 2023. The report reflected that the actual number may even be higher. Scientific research shows that the number of “undeclared euthanasia” cases may increase as much as 25% to 35%, bringing the total number up to 4,278 and 4,621.

The majority of the assisted dying procedures have been performed on elderly patients. Figures show that almost one-third of them  were executed on patients below the age of 70. Nearly half – 48.6% – were fulfilled in private homes, 32% were accomplished at healthcare facilities and 17.4% were performed in care homes. 

2023 identified an increase in euthanasia cases carried out on patients with multiple pathologies. This means that patients who had been diagnosed with cancer developed a second or third condition. Almost half of the assisted dying were performed on people who were not considered to pass in the short term. 76.2% of Belgian assisted dying was administered to patients that endured both physical and psychological disorders. 89 people were euthanised only because of psychological conditions or cognitive illness, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease and various personality disorders. 

To qualify for euthanasia, Belgian law defines three important conditions: the request must be voluntary, considered and repeated; the patient must be experiencing unbearable suffering; and the suffering must be the result of an incurable and serious illness. Two separate doctors must validate that these criteria are met. Marc Decroly, a general practitioner in Brussels, states that euthanasia is “a possibility for the patient, not a right. It is a possibility for the doctor, not a duty.”


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