Euthanasia in Belgium: Analysis of the 2020 Commission Report


Thematic : End of life / Euthanasia and assisted suicide

News - Belgium

Published on : 16/11/2020

Author / Source : C. du Bus

The European Institute of Bioethics (EIB) has published a report (available in French and Dutch) on the 2020 Belgian euthanasia report indicating that the number of reported assisted deaths increased by 12.6% in 2019 to 2656. The 2019 Belgian euthanasia report, indicated that there were 2357 reported assisted deaths in 2018. There were 954 reported assisted deaths in 2010 representing a 267% increase in 9 years.

The Belgian euthanasia commission admits that it “does not have the possibility of evaluating the proportion of the number of euthanasia's declared in relation to the number of euthanasia's actually carried out.”

A NEJM study examining 2013 Belgian deaths and euthanasia commission data concluded that almost half of the euthanasia deaths in 2013 were not reported to the commission.

The same NEJM study also concluded that more than 1000 deaths (1.7%) were hastened without explicit request in 2013.


The 2020 Belgium euthanasia data states that 57 people died by euthanasia based on psychiatric disorders and 48 people died by euthanasia based on cognitive disorders (dementia syndromes).
Of the 57 deaths based on psychiatric disorders, 17 people had mood disorders (depression, bipolar, ...); 26 people had personality and behavioural disorders (compared to 13 for the previous period); 4 people had neurotic disorders, disorders linked to stressors and 6 somatoform disorders; 7 people had schizophrenia, schizophytic disorders and delusional disorders, and 3 people had organic mental disorders such as autism.
The 48 people who died based on cognitive disorders, 43 were not expected to die soon.

In young psychiatric patients, "the unbearable and persistent nature of suffering was frequently associated with past experiences" such as sexual abuse, neglect as a child, parental rejection, self-harm and suicide attempts. The Commission added, speaking of euthanasia, that “the failed suicide attempts made the people concerned aware that there was also another, more dignified way of ending one's life”.

It seems therefore that the euthanasia commission considers euthanasia an alternative to suicide.


Moreover, the Belgian euthanasia report indicates that 96% of the deaths stated that physical suffering as a reason, but 81% of the deaths stated that psychological suffering was a reason for euthanasia. Only 7% of the deaths had a consultation with a palliative care practitioner.

Euthanasia and organ donation occurred in 18 of the deaths. 11 of the 18 deaths had either a disease of the nervous system or a mental and behavioural disorder.

Once medicalized killing becomes legal, there soon develops many more reasons to kill. Belgium is the prime example of a country that is continuously expanding the scope of its euthanasia regime.



Translation by Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

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