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Dutch euthanasia cases up 13 per cent last year Add to ...

The number of reported Dutch cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide rose 13 percent last year, the government said on Wednesday, spurring talk of a possible "euthanasia hospital" to help people end their lives. The annual report of the regional commissions that oversee the Netherlands' euthanasia law said there were 2,636 cases in 2009, the vast majority of them euthanasia, or "mercy killing", as opposed to assisted suicide, or helping someone to die.

That represented about 2 per cent of all Dutch deaths last year, based on figures from Statistics Netherlands. Of the cases, slightly over 80 percent were cancer patients and more than 80 per cent of the deaths occurred in the patient's home.

The rise follows a 10.5 per cent rise in 2008, bolstering a campaign for more formal facilities to end peoples' lives.

The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life said this week it would begin a legal and practical review into opening an "end-of-life clinic" where all the relevant decisions can be made for a patient's death.

The association said it was focused in particular on helping people whose conditions fall within the parameters of the euthanasia law but whose doctors are unwilling to help.

Under the law, a doctor must make certain that a patient requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide is making a voluntary and informed request, that the patient is suffering unbearably, that the patient is fully informed about the prospects and that the patient has decided there is no alternative.

A second physician also must examine the patient and give a written opinion that all the criteria have been met. The regional commissions are notified of the death after the fact and must decide whether the case met the legal criteria.

In nine cases last year, the report said, the commissions found that doctors had not sufficiently complied with the criteria of due care for their patients.

Doctors that do not comply with the law can be sent to jail for up to 12 years in cases of euthanasia and up to three years for assisted suicide.

The Netherlands was the first country to permit euthanasia for the terminally ill. Switzerland has become better known, though, for its liberal laws on assisted suicide and a "death tourism" industry has developed as a result.

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