Since 2002, when euthanasia was legalised, more Dutch speakers than French speakers have sought aid in dying. However, the ratio is becoming smaller. “Last year the ratio was 70% Dutch speakers compared to 30% French speakers,” says Distelmans. “In the beginning, that ratio was 80-20.”
What accounts for the shift? The number of Dutch speakers is growing, but at a slower rate. Distelmans believes that bad publicity for the euthanasia process after the case of Tina Nys might have something to do with it. The 38-year-old woman was euthanised in 2010, but her family alleged that procedures set down in the law had not been observed. Three doctors were put on trial. They were exonerated – but the incident may have discouraged some people in Flanders, where the case was more in the news, from taking advantage of legal euthanasia.
Distelmans said that 61 foreigners, mostly from France, had been euthanised in 2022. “The Belgian euthanasia law does not require that someone must be Belgian. More and more foreigners have understood this and come to Belgium via the internet. The fact that this is happening indicates that those countries should also vote for a euthanasia law so that their inhabitants do not have to come to Belgium,” he said.
Michael Cook. His article is printed with permission