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Netherlands non-voluntary euthanasia has decreased since law change

Further research finds no evidence of a slippery slope

New research published in The Lancet today, conducted by a Dutch research team, shows that the rates of voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands have not significantly increased since the legalisation of assistance to die. Whilst Dignity in Dying advocates an assisted dying law similar to the US states of Oregon and Washington, rather than the Dutch model of voluntary euthanasia, the importance of legalising and regulating assistance to die at the end of life is crucial.

The lead author of the research (Professor Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen) also reported that the frequency of ending of a patient’s life in the absence of an explicit request (non-voluntary euthanasia) has not increased in the Netherlands since the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. In fact non-voluntary euthanasia has decreased significantly from 0.8% of deaths in 1990, to 0.2% of deaths in 2010.

The total number of voluntary euthanasia cases in 2010 was around 4,050, just under 3% of all deaths. Nearly 80% of these had been reported to a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee. This reporting rate is similar to that in 2005 and, crucially, higher than the reporting rate before the euthanasia law came into force.

In 2011 a report was published by the European Association for Palliative Care which examined palliative care in countries where legal assistance to die is practised, including the Netherlands. This report found that palliative care is at least as well developed in these countries as in the comparator countries of Germany, France and Spain. [1]

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“This research further reinforces that legalising assistance to die does not initiate a slippery slope; rather it provides a regulatory framework for transparent and open discussion and reporting.

“We know that in the UK people want assistance to die to be available to terminally ill mentally competent adults, and that the absence of a safeguarded assisted dying law drives some dying adults to take desperate decisions. This new research shows that assistance to die can be safely legislated for and regulated, and that legalising assisted dying has a positive impact on levels of reporting and openness about this end of life choice.”

Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands. Dignity in Dying campaigns only for the legalisation of assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in the UK.


Notes to editor:

About the research:

For more information go to:


[1] Cahmaere K, Centeno C, Hernandez EA et al (2011) Palliative care development in countries with a euthanasia law European Association for Palliative Care

Dignity in Dying:

  • Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
  • Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

Media Contacts:

For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at