'Euthanasia hospital' mooted in Netherlands

The number of reported Dutch cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide rose 13 per cent last year, the government has said, spurring talk of a possible "euthanasia hospital" to help people end their lives.

The annual report of the regional commissions that oversee the Netherlands' euthanasia law said there were 2,636 cases in 2009, the vast majority of them euthanasia, or "mercy killing", as opposed to assisted suicide, or helping someone to die. That represented about 2 per cent of all Dutch deaths last year, based on figures from Statistics Netherlands. Of the cases, slightly over 80 per cent were cancer patients and more than 80 per cent of the deaths occurred in the patient's home.

The rise follows a 10.5 per cent increase in 2008, bolstering a campaign for more formal facilities to end peoples' lives.

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The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life said this week it would begin a legal and practical review into opening an "end-of-life clinic" . The association said it was focused in particular on helping people whose conditions fall within the parameters of the euthanasia law but whose doctors are unwilling to help.

Under the law, a doctor must make certain a patient's request for euthanasia or assisted suicide is voluntary and informed, that the patient is suffering unbearably, is fully informed and has decided there is no alternative. A second physician also give a written opinion that all the criteria have been met.

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