According to the commission which oversees legalized euthanasia practice in Belgium, there were 742 euthanasia deaths, 31 per month, in 2004 and 2005.
Thus far, for the first part of 2006, the rate has increased to 37 euthanasia deaths a month.
That is a significant jump from 2002 (the year euthanasia was legalized) and 2003 when statistics showed that 17 people a month were euthanized. The commission concluded that, despite the jump in deaths, euthanasia is limited to the very few, accounting for only three to four deaths per 1,000. But, with Belgium’s overall death rate at 10.27 per 1,000, the number of euthanasia deaths is not insignificant.
The rise in euthanasia practice, the commission explained, is because of the increased dissemination of information on the subject, not a change in the public’s attitude. There was “no wave of euthanasia,” they concluded, nor was there any indication that Belgium became a tourist death destination. As the Belgian newspaper Le Soir put it, “Doctors did not become old-people murderers.”
The statistics for 2004 and 2005, however, showed that 49 percent of euthanized patients were elderly.
In addition, cancer patients accounted for 83 percent of euthanasia cases, with men opting for a hastened death more often than women. In only 39 percent of the cases, euthanasia occurred in the patient’s home. A mere 14 percent of the official euthanasia declarations signed by patients were in French, indicating that the majority of patients requesting death are from the Dutch-speaking regions of the country. [Agence France Presse, 11/11/06; Expatica, 11/9/06; Int’l Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Update 2006, Vol 20, No 5]