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Belgium sees euthanasia increase by 15% in 2023

Belgium map

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J-P Mauro - published on 03/09/24

Euthanasia in Belgium has consistently grown each year since it was legalized in 2002, with 2023 presenting the largest figures yet.

A February 27 report from the European Institute of Bioethics is drawing attention to rising rates of euthanasia in the nation of Belgium. The statistics, drawn by the Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia in Belgium (CFCEE), show record high numbers, which had already increased by 10% in 2022. 

The data from 2023 found a 15% increase in the number of people who ended their lives by euthanasia, which has been legal in Belgium since 2002. However, while 2002 only saw 24 Belgian deaths from euthanasia, 2022 saw 2,966. Just one year later, that figure had risen to 3,423, a number that had never been reached before

The report noted, however, that these figures may actually be even higher than they appear in the data. The Institute notes that scientific studies have estimated that the number of those who receive “undeclared euthanasias” could raise the 2022 figure by as much as 25% to 35%. The addition to the recorded figure would bring the number of Belgian euthanasia deaths up to between 4,278 and 4,621. 

While the majority of euthanasia cases involved elderly patients, the report points out that in 2023 nearly one-third of Belgian euthanasias were performed on patients younger than 70. Broken down by location, nearly half (48.6%) were carried out in private residences, 17.4% were administered in care or rest homes, and 32% were at healthcare facilities. 

The year 2023 also saw an increase in euthanasias carried out on patients with multiple pathologies, meaning they had developed a second type of condition after being diagnosed with cancer. These represent 23.2% of all euthanasias in Belgium, with nearly half (47%) carried out on patients who were not expected to die in the short term.

It was found that 76.2% of Belgian euthanasias in 2023 were administered to patients that suffered from both physical and psychological conditions. There were 89 people, however, who were euthanized solely due to psychological conditions or cognitive disorders – these include personality disorders, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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