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Belgium euthanasia cases double since legalization

[JURIST] [JURIST Europe] Statistics published this week show that almost 400 euthanasia cases were reported in Belgium in 2005, almost double the level when the Belgian parliament adopted controversial legislation [PDF document in English; COE backgrounder] authorizing the practice in 2002. Wim Distelmans, chairman of the Federal Evaluation and Control Commission responsible for receiving reports from doctors and for compiling annual statistics, says that the actual numbers are higher than the officially reported figures. About 80% of the cases occur in the northern region of Flanders, a fact which Distelmans attributes to the support of the Life Ending Information Forum [official website in Dutch].

Belgian law defines euthanasia "as intentionally terminating life by someone other than the person concerned, at the latter's request." Those requesting euthanasia have to be conscious when making the request. They also have to be in "constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain" stemming from an accident or incurable disease. Belgium was the second European country, after the Netherlands, to legalize euthanasia [BBC report]. Expatica has more.

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