Soaring euthanasia deaths in Europe raise fears for legalisation in Britain

Euthanasia deaths in Europe and Canada have leapt by almost a quarter in just 12 months, raising fears that legalising assisted dying in the UK will become a slippery slope leading to more and more people choosing to die.

Once the taboo is broken, regulations are often later relaxed further to allow patients with mental health issues, autism, and even children, to choose to die, campaigners have warned.

The 23 per cent hike is part of a trend of rising popularity in the three countries since it was legalised, according to the Sunday Telegraph’s analysis of the latest available data.

Deaths doubled over past 5 years in Canada 

Deaths doubled over the past five years in Canada, which legalised in 2016, Belgium, and the Netherlands, which both legalised in 2002.

24,927 people died by euthanasia in 2022 in Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands which is a 113 per cent increase from 2017 when 11,729 deaths were recorded.

The findings come amid calls in Britain to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill adults from politicians and celebrities such as Dame Esther Rantzen, who has revealed she has joined Dignitas.

Assisted dying involves giving patients the means to kill themselves, usually lethal drugs, while euthanasia is carried out by a doctor, usually by lethal injection.

In Canada, which legalised euthanasia in 2016, cases jumped by an astonishing 30 per cent last year and have more than quadrupled since 2017.

Some 13,241 people were killed by doctors in 2022, the equivalent of 4.1 per cent of all deaths in Canada for that year.

In 2021, the law was widened to include serious and chronic physical conditions, even if they were not life threatening, after being initially offered only to the terminally ill.

Chef Tracey Thompson, 55, applied to be euthanised after being left unemployed, and bedridden by long Covid in December last year.

Netherlands first country to legalise euthanasia 

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia in 2002. Euthanasia is only legal under certain conditions, including having an incurable illness causing “unbearable” physical or mental suffering.

In April last year, the Dutch government announced it would widen its “right to die” laws to include terminally ill children between one and 12 years old.

But numbers rose by almost 14 per cent in 2022, equivalent to one in 20 deaths in the Netherlands.

Twenty-nine couples were killed together among the 8,720 people killed, usually by lethal injection.

115 people with severe psychiatric illness were helped to die. In recent years five people younger than 30 with autism were euthanised.

Belgian law dictates that a patient must experience unbearable suffering as the result of an incurable illness and make repeated and considered requests for euthanasia before it is granted.

2.5 per cent of deaths in Belgium last year involved euthanasia, with almost 3,000 people undergoing the deadly procedure, an increase of almost 10 per cent compared to 2021 and 28 per cent since 2017.

Among them was a 23-year-old woman who survived the 2016 terror attacks on Brussels who was euthanised after years suffering from PTSD and depression.

Shanti De Corte was 17 when Islamic State terrorists detonated bombs at Zaventem airport.

Although she escaped physically unharmed, she suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and twice tried to take her own life.

Colombia and Luxembourg legal for over half decade 

Colombia and Luxembourg have also had legal euthanasia for more than half a decade. 133 people died in the two countries, an increase of 12 per cent on 2021.

Euthanasia is also legal in Spain, where 180 people died in 2022 during the first year the law came into force. Portugal has legalised euthanasia, which is also now allowed in some Australian states, but the law has not yet entered into force.

In the United States, euthanasia is not legal but assisted dying, when patients are provided with the means, usually lethal drugs, to kill themselves, is in five states.

Assisted dying is also legal in Switzerland, home to the Dignitas clinic, which now has record numbers of British members, and New Zealand after a referendum in 2020.

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