The number of reported cases of assisted suicide in the Netherlands has increased by 10 percent in 2016, and it now represents four percent of all the deaths in the country, according to a report by the regional monitoring boards.
There have been 6,091 reported cases of euthanasia last year, compared with 5,561 cases in 2015. As many as 87 percent of the cases in 2016 involved people with cancer, serious heart or lung problems, or nervous system disorders such as ALS, Dutch News reported.
A total of 32 euthanasia cases involved people with dementia, most of whom were in the early stages of the disease, while another 60 cases involved people with sever psychiatric problems.
Euthanasia rules were not properly observed in 10 cases, most of which involved a failure to consult with a second doctor. The opinion of a second doctor is required under the current law in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands conducts a major study on euthanasia every five years. A study in 2010 indicated that 23 percent of all assisted deaths in the country have been unreported. There has been a 317 percent increase in assisted deaths since 2006, according to Life News.
Monitoring committee chairman Jacob Kohnstamm explained that the increase in euthanasia cases could be due to the democratic make-up of the Netherlands, as well as a change of opinion among doctors.
Assisted suicide became legal in the country in 2002 under strict conditions. A patient must be suffering unbearable pain, and the doctor must be convinced that the patient is making an informed choice before going through with the procedure.
The government extended euthanasia for people with severe dementia in January 2016. In February, the Journal of Psychiatry published a report highlighting significant concerns about euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.
The report cited a case in which a woman without health problems in her 70s chose to die by euthanasia after the death of her husband. Prior to her husband's death, the couple decided that they would not live without each other.
According to a consultant, the woman "did not feel depressed at all. She ate, drank and slept well. She followed the news and undertook activities."
Doctors have recently come out against a proposal that would allow euthanasia for people who feel their lives are complete, and not just for people who are suffering unbearable pain.
"Such a radical proposal is not desirable for practical reasons and for reasons of principle," the Dutch Doctors Federation, which represents 59,000 practitioners and students, said in a statement.
The doctors warned that approving the proposal would lead to "an erosion of the conscientious practice of euthanasia" and increase "the feeling of vulnerability among elderly people and the stigmatisation of old age."