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Terminally-ill patients in the Netherlands increasingly receive drugs to render them unconscious until death,
according to a study that suggests people are substituting deep sedation for legal euthanasia.

The researchers found that 1,800 people — 7.1 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands in 2005 — were drugged into so-called continuous deep sedation shortly before dying. This compares with 5.6 percent of cases in 2001.

At the same time, the use of euthanasia fell from 2.6 percent of all deaths to 1.7 percent, representing a decrease of 1,200 cases, the
researchers reported in the British Medical Journal on 21 March 2008.

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