Old age enough to be euthanised in Belgium and Netherlands

Poor eyesight, hearing loss and chronic tiredness are, together, now considered sufficient reason for euthanasia and assisted suicide in Belgium.

Research carried out by Belgian academics based at Ghent University found a combination of everyday conditions associated with old age, known as “polypathology”, accounted for a significant number of assisted deaths in 2019.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalised in Belgium in 2002. Since then cases have risen more than a hundredfold, from 24 in 2002 to 2,656 in 2019.


The authors of the report said there was a “widening of the use of euthanasia” in Belgium and argued that legal safeguards “often fail to operate as such”.

They said “the scope of the Euthanasia Law has been stretched from being used for serious and incurable illnesses to being used to cover tiredness of life”.

legal safeguards often fail to operate as such

Although euthanasia for “tiredness of life” is not permitted in Belgium, doctors are reportedly evading the law by diagnosing elderly patients with polypathology instead.

The study found that it was given as the reason for over 17 per cent of all reported euthanasia and assisted suicide cases in 2019, and a “staggering” 47 per cent of all “nonterminal” euthanasia cases.


According to data from the Institute for Medical Anthropology and Bioethics in Vienna, euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths in the Netherlands have also risen dramatically since the law was liberalised – from 1,882 in 2002 to 6,361 in 2019.

The Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committees similarly noted an increase in the number of cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide in older people diagnosed with several normal conditions associated with geriatrics.

Researchers who examined their case summaries found that over half of the people who had requested euthanasia or assisted suicide on the grounds of polypathology “always perceived themselves as independent, active, and socially involved”.

independent, active, and socially involved


Reacting to the reports, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children’s Antonia Tully said: “This is devastating data”.

She continued: “There is a creeping culture of death spreading around the globe as euthanasia laws are passed in one country after another.”

Tully added: “Here in Britain, we must resist all attempts to normalise this dangerous practice and instead promote a society where each human life is valued and respected.”

Also see:


‘Agitated’ dementia patients can be sedated before euthanasia – Netherlands

Netherlands approves euthanasia for under 12s

Belgium court clears euthanasia doctors

Dutch assisted suicide ‘a cautionary tale’ for UK, experts tell MPs

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