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The number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands has dropped over the past few years, though the number of terminal patients receiving palliative sedation has increased. This has emerged from an evaluation of euthanasia legislation presented to State secretary for public health Jet Bussemaker.

2,300 people had their lives terminated by euthanasia in 2005, more than a third less than the 3,500 cases in 2001. There was an 11-percent increase in the use of palliative sedation in the same period from 8,500 to 9,600.

Palliative sedation involves the administration of deep sleep-inducing medication to terminal patients who have at most two weeks to live. These patients are not administered liquid in this state.

The number of doctor-assisted suicides also decreased, from 300 in 2001 to 100 in 2005. There were also fewer patient requests for euthanasia or suicide assistance: 8,400, compared to 9,700 in 2001.

The current legislation governing euthanasia has been in effect since 1 April 2002. The law allows euthanasia only when the patient has no prospect of recovery, his suffering is intolerable, he has made the decision conscientiously, no other solution is available, and a second doctor has been consulted.

Doctors are required to report euthanasia cases to a regional review committee which monitors that all conditions have been met. The evaluation indicates that more and more doctors are honouring this reporting requirement. While only 54 percent reported euthanasia cases in 2001, 80 percent did so in 2005.

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