Rick Santorum, one of the current GOP presidential candidates for the 2012 presidential election recently claimed that 10% of deaths in the Netherlands are due to euthanasia and that half of those euthanasia cases are involuntarily. DailyKOS has a video of the American Heartland Forum where this claim was made.

Are these numbers in any way accurate? Is there any hard data on the number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands?

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    End-of-Life Practices in the Netherlands under the Euthanasia Act (The New England Journal of Medicine)
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 12:24
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    Ugh, this guy is starting to seriously piss me off. Why can’t politicians be sued for lying in public? This law needs to be passed. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:19
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    The 10% is open to interpretation (what's included? If you include stopping life support on terminal patients you'd get up much higher than when just including active termination (by injection of lethal doses of painkillers for example), claiming half are involuntary sounds like complete bollox (though it's of course impossible to prove either way).
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:54
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    Factcheck.org has tackled this question. Rather than writing up an answer and taking their references, I'll just link to their answer: factcheck.org/2012/02/santorums-bogus-euthanasia-claims Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 19:19
  • Just gonna point out here, but if that's true it means that either we're euthanizing a lot of people or we've managed to bring down various other causes of death to the point where 'assisted suicide' is statistically significant because you failed to die of anything else earlier. Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 8:00

1 Answer 1


According to Statistics Netherlands a total of 136,058 people died in the Netherlands in 2010. 3136 of those were euthanasia - that's about 2.3%.

A study found that in 2005, euthanasia accounted for 1.7% of all deaths in the Netherlands (also notable from their numbers, I think, are a decrease in the frequency of "withholding or withdrawing of life-prolonging treatment" from 20.2% before legislation passed to 15.6% in 2005).

That study found that "Ending of life without explicit request by the patient" accounted for 0.4% of deaths, and that in 85.5% of these cases, it was estimated to shorten life by less than one week. This was less than before the legislation allowing euthanasia passed - though not by a statistically significant amount.

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    This statistic is now 6 years old. Which would not be a big deal if the law had been in place for 10 years. I dobut that the numbers have changed to get to 10% but a single year immediately after the law passed does not mean that the numbers have not increased, especially now during a difficult time. 2005 was a boom year economically.
    – Chad
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:44
  • true, but the 2010 government report (CBS is the official government statistics office) shows similar numbers. TBH it's impossible to be certain, as doctors may not report all cases of euthanasia to avoid the legal hassle (criminal investigation is mandatory, there's reams of paperwork).
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:52
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    Well, but even if all the unreported cases would amount to 10% that would still mean that Santorum was talking out of his rear end because how would he know that number?
    – Lagerbaer
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 4:50
  • @jwenting: The consequences for not reporting it are high though, so the cost of filling the paperwork is probably worth avoiding the risk of going to jail or losing your license.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 5:28
  • true, but it depends on the risk of getting caught (which is low, probably very low). There are of course no figures about that, because if there were 100% would be caught :)
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 6:02

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