In Belgium, Euthanasia Is Unrestrained

February 27, 2023

The statistics relating to assisted suicides during the year 2022 have just been made public by the Federal Commission for the Evaluation of Euthanasia. They show that Belgium has once again reached a sad record in the field of “white glove” death.

The figures published by the kingdom's public services concern the registration documents for euthanasia carried out between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, documents which have all been examined by the Federal Commission for the Evaluation of Euthanasia.

The first lesson concerns the significant increase in the number of people who have requested and obtained active assistance in dying: the number of registration documents received in 2022 was 2,966, which represents an increase of 9.85% compared to 2021.

Thus, the proportion of deaths by euthanasia declared in 2022 is 2.5% of all deaths occurring in Belgium, compared to 2.4% the previous year.

Regarding the age of the patients concerned: 69.9% of people euthanized in 2022 were over 70 years old and 42.2% were over 80 years old. Euthanasia in patients under 40 remains very infrequent (1.2%). It should be noted that no declaration relating to the euthanasia of a minor was recorded last year.

With regards to the place where euthanasia was performed, there is a confirmed increase in euthanasia performed in rest and care homes (16.4%). 7.8% of euthanasias were performed in palliative care units, i.e., 25% of euthanasias performed in hospitals. This proportion is up from the previous year.

We also note that the Flemings are more inclined to request euthanasia than the Walloons, a sign of greater secularization in the richest regions of the country: for 2022, 70.4% of registration documents were drawn up in Dutch, and 29.6% in French.

While the increase in declarations in both languages can be observed, that for documents written in French was very markedly up last year: 877 in 2022 compared to 693 in 2021, i.e., an increase of 184 declarations.

The Commission has also identified the conditions at the origin of euthanasia: cancerous tumors represent almost 60% of requests, while the combination of several chronic treatment resistant conditions – or polypathologies – constitutes almost 20% of euthanasia. In practice, these conditions may include loss of sight or hearing, polyarthritis or incontinence.

As might be expected, requests for euthanasia on the basis of psychiatric conditions such as personality disorders – even if they still remain at a rather low level – have been favored by practitioners. 1% of patients have thus been eliminated due to psychiatric disorders; and 1.4% on the basis of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease: a safeguard has been crossed.

It is a crossing accomplished with complete impunity since the Evaluation Commission considered that all the declarations received met the essential conditions of the law, and none were transmitted to the public prosecutor.

It is something to think about in France, where the Citizens' Convention - bringing together a panel of 184 French people - set up by the government declared on February 19 its favor for legal and active assistance in dying. At the same time, 800,000 caregivers signed a statement to refuse any legislative drift in this direction.