Euthanasia in Belgium: The Great Leap Forward

April 11, 2022

The official figures for euthanasia declared in Belgium for 2021 have just been published, and are up sharply compared to the previous year. Worrying statistics, when it is estimated that between 25% to 35% of assisted suicides are not reported.

Life seems to be worth less and less in Belgium, if the Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia (CFCEE) figures published on March 31, 2022 are to be believed. For some years, these figures have been identifying the number of reported legal assisted suicides.

Thus, in 2021, 2,699 people meeting the criteria approved by the legislator were able to be assisted in ending their lives: an increase of 10.39% compared to the previous year, during which there were 2,445 euthanasia deaths.

These figures, according to scientists, should be increased by 25 to 35%, so as to take into account undeclared euthanasia deaths, which is still very numerous.

The CFCEE report provides valuable information, particularly on the age of people who have had recourse to euthanasia: 67.8% were over 70 years old and 40.2% were over 80 years old.

It should be noted that almost a third (32.2%) of people who officially died by euthanasia were under the age of 60, but over 40, since assisted suicide among those under 40 remains infrequent at 1.4%.

People commit suicide more readily in the Flemish population than the Walloon, since 74.3% of euthanasia requests are written in Dutch, compared to 25.7% in French, a proportion which remains stable compared to 2020.

In 2021, the conditions at the origin of euthanasia requests were cancers (62.8%), polypathologies, or a combination of several conditions which are not likely to improve and which cause increasingly serious disabilities, which can go as far as organ failure, at a rate of 17.7%.

Next come diseases of the nervous system (7.9%), the circulatory system (3.7%), the respiratory system (2.3%), psychiatric disorders (0.9%), cognitive troubles (1%), and diseases of the digestive system (0.9%), and finally traumatic injuries, poisonings, and certain other consequences of external causes (0.9%). The other categories together represent 1.9% of conditions.

While the year 2020 had been marked by an unprecedented drop in cases – due to the pandemic – this parenthesis seems to have closed as shown by the resumption of the constant increase in euthanasia: death in white gloves seems to have shifted into high gear on the banks of the Meuse and the Scheldt.