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Euthanasia cases fall in Netherlands, survey says

It's the first study since euthanasia was legalized.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 11, 2007


THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The number of euthanasia cases is falling sharply in the Netherlands, where mercy killings were legalized six years ago, a government-funded report said Thursday.

A survey presented to Deputy Health Minister Jet Bussemaker said terminally ill patients are increasingly choosing to be sedated until they die a natural death.

The number of euthanasia cases in 2005 fell to 2, 325 from 3, 500 in 2001, when the euthanasia law was passed. Assisted suicides dropped to 100 from 300, she said.

The percentage of all deaths by euthanasia dropped to 1.7 percent from 2.6 percent in 2001, Bussemaker said.

The report praised the new euthanasia law as a success, particularly citing the rising number of doctors who report euthanasia cases.

"The most important finding of the research, I think, is that 80 percent of euthanasia cases are now being reported, " said Bussemaker, who called it a pleasing improvement from six years ago when only 54 percent of cases were reported.

The euthanasia survey was the fourth carried out since 1990, but the first since the country passed a law in 2001 legalizing euthanasia under strict guidelines.

Research for the survey by staff members from four respected teaching hospitals and the government's Central Bureau for Statistics included studying reports of euthanasia cases, interviewing doctors and coroners, and checking death records.