The Belgian study on the process and outcomes of euthanasia requests was part of the “Monitoring Quality of End-of-Life Care Study.”
The researchers sent an anonymous self-administered questionnaire to 3006 Belgian physicians by mail in March 2009. Euthanasia was legalized in Belgium in 2002.
Since some of the physicians did not practice anymore, some never received the questionnaire and some could not be reached, therefore it was determined that the 914 returned questionnaires represented a 34% (2726) rate of response.
This data in the study found that only 5% of the 363 most recent requests for euthanasia were refused.
The article states:
"We found that only 5% of all requests are actually rejected, which is considerably fewer than in The Netherlands (12%)."
The article then states:
"Unfortunately we have no information on the reasons why the attending physicians from our study refused to grant requests. ...
When a psychiatric disorder is the primary diagnosis, the requests were never granted. Although the Belgian euthanasia law specifically mentions psychological suffering as grounds for requesting euthanasia."
Even though the study that was done in March 2009 found that only 5% of requests for euthansia were refused, it appears that a greater acceptance of euthanasia for people with depression or psychiatric conditions in Belgium has developed since the study was done.
This January it was reported that Belgian identical twins, Marc and Eddy Verbessem, were euthanized in Belgium because they feared becoming blind.
My mother suffered from chronic depression. Two years ago she broke off all contact with me. In April 2012 she was euthanased at the hospital of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (the Free University of Brussels).
The death of my mother has triggered a lot of questions. How is it possible that people can be euthanised in Belgium without close family or friends being contacted? Why does my country give medical doctors the exclusive power to decide over life and death? How do we judge what “unbearable suffering” is? What are the criteria to decide what “unbearable suffering” is? Can we rely on such a judgment for a mentally ill person?
A Netherlands study that was published in 2005 examined euthanasia and depression in relation to cancer patients and found that almost half of all the requests for euthanasia were made by patients who were depressed and 44% of the patients who were depressed requested euthanasia, which represented a 4.1 times greater risk factor for requesting euthanasia.
A similar study in Oregonthat was published in 2008 found that 26% of those who had requested assisted suicide were depressed or experiencing feelings of hopelessness.