Belgium: Rise in assisted deaths

23 August 2011
Le Soir

Le Soir, 23 August 2011

"Growing trend for euthanasia," headlines the front page of Le Soir. "Since 2002, and the implementation of a law that partially depenalises the practice, there have never been more cases of euthanasia," explains the Belgian daily, which reports on the latest figures from the federal monitoring agency. With more than 85 declared cases per month since the start of this year, there will be more than 1,000 deaths by euthanasia in 2011, as opposed to 954 in 2010. The largest group among those who exercise the right to die are men in the 60-79 age group, and 80 per cent of cases involve patients who have been treated for cancer.

Another "bizarre" fact highlighted by the statistics is that 84% of euthanasia cases are reported in Flemish, "which indicates that Francophone doctors are 'declaring' fewer cases or are less likely to 'practice' euthanasia." The state monitoring agency is reluctant to draw conclusions, but wonders about the impact of "information made available to the public and doctors, as well as socio-cultural differences, and differences in medical care for the terminally ill."