May 25, 2024

Belgian euthanasia chief explains 10% rise

Why are more people resorting to euthanasia in Belgium? The number of cases of euthanasia in Belgium rose by 9.85% over the previous year in 2022, according to figures published on February 17 by the Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia. The number of people who died was 2,966 – 2.5% of deaths in Belgium.

The head of the Commission, Dr Wim Distelmans, explained to VRT, a Belgian news website, that: “There is an increase in registered euthanasia cases. That is because there is more awareness about the euthanasia law among the population, we suspect.”

Since 2002, when euthanasia was legalised, more Dutch speakers than French speakers have sought aid in dying. However, the ratio is becoming smaller. “Last year the ratio was 70% Dutch speakers compared to 30% French speakers,” says Distelmans. “In the beginning, that ratio was 80-20.”

What accounts for the shift? The number of Dutch speakers is growing, but at a slower rate. Distelmans believes that bad publicity for the euthanasia process after the case of Tina Nys might have something to do with it. The 38-year-old woman was euthanised in 2010, but her family alleged that procedures set down in the law had not been observed. Three doctors were put on trial. They were exonerated – but the incident may have discouraged some people in Flanders, where the case was more in the news, from taking advantage of legal euthanasia.

Distelmans said that 61 foreigners, mostly from France, had been euthanised in 2022. “The Belgian euthanasia law does not require that someone must be Belgian. More and more foreigners have understood this and come to Belgium via the internet. The fact that this is happening indicates that those countries should also vote for a euthanasia law so that their inhabitants do not have to come to Belgium,” he said.