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BMJ. 2007 May 19; 334(7602): 1029.
PMCID: PMC1871809
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Physician assisted deaths: no “slippery slope” in the Netherlands or Oregon

Rates of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide have fallen slightly since they were legalised in the Netherlands in 2002. In 2005, euthanasia accounted for 1.7% of deaths in the Netherlands, down from 2.6% in 2001 (P<0.05), according to a nationwide survey of doctors. Physician assisted suicides accounted for 0.1% of deaths, down from 0.2% in 2001 (P<0.05). Of the 9965 deceased patients studied, 8.2% were continuously and deeply sedated before death.

figure scut1905.f3

Doctors—most often general practitioners—chose neuromuscular relaxants as the lethal agent in almost two thirds of cases of euthanasia in 2005, opioids in about a fifth, and barbiturates in a 10th. Respondents reported 80.1% of all cases to the authorities in 2005, up from 54% in 2001. The survey had a response of 77.8% (5342/6860).

Physician assisted deaths are clearly not on a “slippery slope” in the Netherlands, writes one commentator from the US (pp 1911-13). The situation is similarly stable in the US state of Oregon where one in 1000 deaths is now officially physician assisted. Oregon is the only state to allow doctors to help patients end their own lives, though euthanasia remains illegal.

References

  • N Engl J Med 2007;356:1957-65 [PubMed]
  • N Engl J Med 2007;356:1911-3 [PubMed]

Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group