BACKGROUND: In 2002, an act regulating the ending of life by a physician at the request of a patient with unbearable suffering came into effect in the Netherlands. In 2005, we performed a follow-up study of euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and other end-of-life practices. METHODS: We mailed questionnaires to physicians attending 6860 deaths that were identified from death certificates. The response rate was 77.8%. RESULTS: In 2005, of all deaths in the Netherlands, 1.7% were the result of euthanasia and 0.1% were the result of physician-assisted suicide. These percentages were significantly lower than those in 2001, when 2.6% of all deaths resulted from euthanasia and 0.2% from assisted suicide. Of all deaths, 0.4% were the result of the ending of life without an explicit request by the patient. Continuous deep sedation was used in conjunction with possible hastening of death in 7.1% of all deaths in 2005, significantly increased from 5.6% in 2001. In 73.9% of all cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide in 2005, life was ended with the use of neuromuscular relaxants or barbiturates; opioids were used in 16.2% of cases. In 2005, 80.2% of all cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide were reported. Physicians were most likely to report their end-of-life practices if they considered them to be an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide, which was rarely true when opioids were used. CONCLUSIONS: The Dutch Euthanasia Act was followed by a modest decrease in the rates of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. The decrease may have resulted from the increased application of other end-of-life care interventions, such as palliative sedation. Copyright

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa071143, hdl.handle.net/1765/35419
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van der Heide, A., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B.D., Rurup, M.L., Buiting, H.M., van Delden, J.J.M., Hanssen-de Wolf, J.E., … van der Wal, G.. (2007). End-of-life practices in the Netherlands under the Euthanasia Act. New England Journal of Medicine, 356(19), 1957–1965. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa071143