Euthanasia Deaths Soar in Holland

In 2022, the Netherlands experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of recorded euthanasia cases. At the same time, the share of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the total number of deaths increased.

The aging of the population alone is not enough to account for what must be called a craze for “chosen death.” In total, 8,720 requests for euthanasia were followed through, compared with 7,776 the previous year. That's an increase of over 13 percent.

The percentage of deaths by euthanasia rose from 4.6% in 2021 to 5.1% in 2022. This means that one in 20 deaths was caused by a lethal injection. Although this is not quite a “new normal” in Dutch society, it is at least a sign of “normalization.” Euthanasia is no longer seen as a rare exception.

Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since the Dutch end-of-life law came into force in 2002. Until 2007, the number of annual euthanasia cases did not exceed 2,000. In 2016, it exceeded 6,000 cases for the first time. However, the percentage of total deaths did not vary greatly between 2017 and 2021, remaining at an average of 4.25%. The development over 20 years shows that the legality of the act is increasing the demand for and use of euthanasia while at the same time the legally acceptable grounds for euthanasia are expanding.

The Regional Euthanasia Evaluation Commissions (RTE), responsible for monitoring the compliance of euthanasia acts with the law, do not explain the leap this year. RTE president Jeroen Recourt noted in the report that no scientific research into the steady rise in the number of euthanasia cases has been carried out, and that it is therefore impossible to make any predictions about the future development of the number of euthanasia cases. However, he does believe that “there is no indication that the trend will change in the coming years.”

While the 2022 annual report complains about the increase in workload and plans to call for an increase in the number of the evaluating commissions’ staff, it is not at all concerned about the increase in euthanasia itself. On the contrary, it stresses that all this is taking place in compliance with the requirements of the law, with only 13 cases of non-compliance, i.e., 0.15% of the total. This is negligible, we are told. The fact that doctors have deliberately procured death nearly 9,000 times in one year – including six times in the context of organ or tissue donation combined with euthanasia, and 29 times to couples who have chosen to die together – is by no means presented as a problem, and even less as a transgression.

The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE) does offer an explanation for the rise in euthanasia. It says an increasing number of people with dementia have requested and obtained euthanasia, and the accumulation of conditions related to aging is also increasingly accepted as a reason for doing so.

In the Netherlands, psychological suffering and depression can justify euthanasia

Psychological suffering, rather than unbearable physical suffering, is also increasingly present in cases, especially among young people. In 1.3% of cases, psychological disorders were sufficient to justify euthanasia.

The social acceptance of this major transgression has also changed in recent years. The latest known figures are found in a 2016 survey. Only 5% of respondents said they opposed euthanasia that year compared with 12% in 2002.

The picture becomes even more worrisome when looking more closely at the Regional Euthanasia commissions’ 2022 report. While painful and terminal cancers, often put forward as a reason for legalizing euthanasia, accounted for the largest proportion of interventions in the years after the decriminalization law in the Netherlands, their proportion has decreased to just under 58% of cases today. There has been a steady increase in other causes. In 2022, euthanasia killed 115 people with psychiatric conditions and 288 with dementia. Of these, 282 were euthanized before becoming unable to express their wishes, and six were executed because of a living will requesting death in the event of such a worsening of their condition that they could not confirm their own consent to the lethal injection.

The 2022 report mentions euthanasia of 282 people with dementia

The report describes at length one such case involving the euthanasia of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease who was unable to give her consent. The doctor chose to add a sedative to her apple sauce so that he could administer the fatal shot without disturbance once she had fallen asleep.

Only one minor (a 12- to 16-year-old with cancer, who made his decision in agreement with his parents) was euthanized in 2022. But another teenager, barely18 years old and suffering from Hallervorden-Spätz syndrome, which causes severe physical decline, intense pain, and the inability to speak, was informed by her mother upon her coming of age of the possibility of asking for death. She indeed requested it by means of a computer screen declaration. Her father was upset that choosing to die had been suggested to her, but her mother replied that the girl had a “right” to be informed of the possibility. “I compare it to sex education,” the woman told the press. “It’s a normal thing that should be dealt with in a businesslike way with your child, and above all without getting emotional.”

The way that euthanasia is evolving in the Netherlands is evidence of a radical revolution.

For years, the euthanasia lobby in Holland has been calling for the right to die when one is simply tired of living. The 2022 report discreetly mentions the concept but insists on “unbearable suffering” to approve euthanasia.

The report describes cases of elderly or very elderly people suffering from the onset of blindness, osteoporosis and painful joints, balance problems and cognitive regression, and argues that this general picture should be used to justify their being sent to the grave. In 2022, 379 euthanized people fell into this category.

29 couples were granted ‘duo-euthanasia’

The increase in the number of couples euthanized together is also significant. A total of 58 people – or 29 couples – chose shared death.

When reading the examples of cases published in the report, one is struck by the importance of the doctor’s conviction that the suffering mentioned by the patient is unbearable and has no prospect of improvement, and this may vary greatly from one case to another. Loss of autonomy, excruciating pain, fear of death by asphyxiation, dependence, the impossibility of speaking in people who were once talkative, refusal to enter a care facility, the impossibility of driving, knitting, or even following news on television are all examples given. One case is about a woman who could no longer find meaning in her life.

And this is perhaps what is missing the most: the meaning of life, the meaning of suffering, as well as the treatment of this suffering both on a human and medical level. Euthanasia is the dream death of societies without God – and therefore without humanity.