THE HAGUE, July 11 (Xinhua) -- The legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2002 did not lead to a sharp increase in the number of such practice as feared by critics, a new study showed.
According to researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, University Medical Center Utrecht and the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), about three percent of all deaths in 2010 in the Netherlands were the result of euthanasia or assisted suicide, compared to a pre-legalization level of 2.8 percent.
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legaliz physician-assisted suicide in 2002. Opponents warned at the time that thre would be an increase in involuntary ehthanasia of terminally ill or elderly patients.
However, the new study, published in medical journal The Lancet, suggested that the number of involuntary euthanasia cases among terminally-ill patients actually decreased.
Based on interviews with 6,000 doctors and 7,000 case studies, the researchers found just 300 cases of euthanasia where the patient had not given explicit consent in 2010, compared to around 1,000 in the years prior to legalisation.
'This is probably because there is more openness and doctors talk to their patients at an earlier stage,' Onwuteaka-Philipsen told the Volkskrant.
The researchers also found that around 600 patients ended their lives by refusing food and drink. In about half of these cases, the patients' euthanasia demands had been denied.