No increase in euthanasia after legalization

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Legalization of euthanasia with no effect on deaths

Researchers evaluated the euthanasia cases in the Netherlands and found that legalization did not result in an increase in active euthanasia and medically assisted suicides. The scientists led by Prof. Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen from the University Medical Center Amsterdam analyzed the development of euthanasia in the Netherlands from 1990 to 2010.

Active euthanasia has been allowed in the Netherlands since 2002. The researchers at the university clinics in Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amsterdam have now carried out a comprehensive study to assess how the legalization of euthanasia has affected the actual cases of active euthanasia. Prof. Onwuteaka-Philipsen and colleagues publish their results in the British specialist magazine "The Lancet".

After legalization, the number of cases of euthanasia decreased slightly, based on the numbers from the death records and causes in the Netherlands from 1990, 1995, 2001, 2005 and 2010, which led the researchers to draw conclusions about the effects of legalizing euthanasia. They also interviewed the doctors who were involved in these deaths and weighted them according to age, gender, marital status, region of residence, cause and place of death. According to the scientists, the proportion of cases of active euthanasia and assisted suicide in the deaths examined was “2.8 percent in the Netherlands in 2010 (475 out of 6,861).” This is a significant increase compared to 2005, however, the level remains roughly at the level of 2001 and 1995, write Prof. Onwuteaka-Philipsen and colleagues in their professional article.

Important contribution to the debate about euthanasia The researchers found a very positive trend in cases in which the life of the patient took place without their explicit request for euthanasia. These extremely critical processes affected only 0.2 percent of the deaths examined in 2010 (13 out of 6,861), which corresponds to only a quarter of the cases (0.8 percent or 45 out of 5,197) before legalization. The study results can also help to reassure critics of euthanasia who assumed that legalization would kill more patients without their express consent. In addition, no more people die today from euthanasia or medically assisted suicide than in the 1990s, the researchers report. However, only 77 percent (3,136 out of 4,050) of all cases were submitted to the Review Committee in 2010, so that there is a relatively large number of unreported cases. Overall, however, the current study gives good "insight into the consequences of regulation of euthanasia and medically assisted suicides", whereby the euthanasia law in the Netherlands has led to a relatively transparent practice, report Prof. Onwuteaka-Philipsen and colleagues. "Although the results are not easily transferable to other countries," they can provide important information for "the debate on legalizing euthanasia", the Dutch researchers concluded.

Euthanasia in the stores legal since 2002 The Netherlands was the first country in the world to adopt an euthanasia law in 2002, which has since formed the legal basis for euthanasia and medically assisted suicides. According to this, euthanasia and medical help for suicide are not punishable if patients are sickly hopeless, suffer unbearably and have explicitly asked for euthanasia on several occasions. However, a second doctor must be consulted before euthanasia and each case must be registered with regional examination boards. Since March 2012, professional euthanasia teams have also been on the road to support the seriously ill and tired of life on the way to the afterlife. Here the criticism seems that a deal is being made with death and the transition from life crises to the end of life is blurring, but definitely worth considering.

Standstill of German legislation regarding euthanasia Unlike in the Netherlands, legislators in Germany have had difficulties dealing with euthanasia for years. The trial of cancer doctor Mechthild Bach from Hanover caused a sensation in Germany. Bach was accused of killing thirteen patients. Although she always denied the allegation, euthanasia for the seriously ill patients was quickly mentioned. When, after around eight years of trial, the court indicated that the conviction could amount to murder instead of manslaughter, the accused committed suicide shortly thereafter. However, the discussion about the legal handling of euthanasia was by no means over.

Critics warn of commercial interest in connection with euthanasia. Not only active euthanasia, but also assisted suicide remains prohibited in Germany, even if the latter remains unpunished under the law. In addition, the German Medical Association had recently decided that medical assisted suicides are not permitted under professional law. Opponents of euthanasia can also give good reasons why they believe that euthanasia should continue to be prohibited. They warn of commercial interests that could lead medical professionals to push patients towards euthanasia. A case in Belgium, for example, in which a 43-year-old woman let herself be killed about a year after a stroke, although her impairments with visual disturbances and general need for care were still relatively moderate, caused considerable sensation. Because as the "ZEIT" reported, the patient also donated her organs, which were removed immediately after euthanasia. (fp)

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