Over 1,000 cases of euthanasia were reported in Belgium in 2011 – a 4,620 per cent rise since the practice was legalised in 2002.
The startling figure has led a medical ethicist to warn that once euthanasia is legalised, “it rapidly becomes accepted as normal”.
In his blog, Dr Peter Saunders highlighted figures from a report on euthanasia in Belgium in 2010 and 2011.
Dr Saunders, who leads the Christian Medical Fellowship, explained that the report showed “an increase from 24 cases in 2002 to 1,133 in 2011”.
Dr Saunders added that the report revealed “75% of euthanasia cases in Belgium were for cancer (including all malignancies), 7% were for progressive neuromuscular disorders (multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc) and 18% were for ‘other conditions'”.
He continued: “69% of euthanasia were performed in patients aged 40-79 years and 27% in patients older than 79 years.”
Dr Saunders warned: “The lessons are clear.
“Once euthanasia is legalised steady escalation follows along with a change in the social conscience so that it rapidly becomes accepted as normal.”
In February this year senators in Belgium began to consider allowing euthanasia for children.
And in January 2013 it emerged that identical Belgian twins who were not terminally ill were killed by lethal injection.
Marc and Eddy Verbessem, who were born deaf, sought euthanasia after discovering they were both going blind.
The pair, aged 45, had to overcome strong resistance from their family to be killed.
In Scotland Margo Macdonald MSP has released an assisted suicide bill which would enable people aged 16 and over to have their end-of-life wishes on record.
And in England a peer in the House of Lords has said he will have another go at legalising assisted suicide – despite being soundly defeated last time.
Lord Falconer says he will introduce a Bill to the House of Lords in the summer, but peers rejected a similar effort in 2009.