Euthanasia  was intensely discussed in the Netherlands and Spain this week.

The Netherlands and Belgium are legal trailblazers in Europe, introducing legislation on assisted suicide aimed at facilitating dignified death for terminally ill and suffering patients. Spain is now reflecting on a similar legal framework.

In the Netherlands, authorities are reflecting on the process of monitoring cases of euthanasia, as a sudden drop in people who take the option of assisted suicide may be linked to how prosecutors are dealing with this controversial legal subject.

The debate in the Netherlands is likely to affect Spain, which is now reflecting on its own legal framework on assisting dignified death for terminally ill people.

Dutch controversy

Cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands have dropped by 9% since 2017, Trouw newspaper reported on Tuesday.

This is the first significant drop since the law allowing euthanasia was adopted in 2002. The option is strictly regulated and the patient does not have access to euthanasia unless he or she suffers from unbearable pain and the doctor is convinced the individual can make an informed choice.

The chairman of the euthanasia monitoring committee Jacob Kohnstamm told Trouw that he was surprised by the reduction, which he linked to possible to a flu epidemic. In almost all cases, individuals opting for euthanasia are in the final stage of a terminal illness, such as heart and artery disease, dementia, Parkinson, MS, or cancer.

However, there is an alternative scenario. The theory is that the sudden drop p may also be linked to the launch the launch of five criminal investigations into euthanasia, leading doctors to become more cautious.

Spanish political debate

Meanwhile, a new legal on euthanasia was introduced in Spain in June 2018, as one of the first acts of the minority Socialist government. It is meant to facilitate access to euthanasia in both the public and private health service sector.

The government is confident there is a majority to pass the bill with the support of Podemos, as well as Basque and Catalan parties. However, parties favouring this legislation differ on how they envisage the monitoring of the process, in which case the Dutch precedent may weigh in.

Currently, assisted suicide is a crime. Opinion polls suggest public opinion is ready for a change, El Pais reports.

The conservative opposition is fiercely opposed to a law on euthanasia. The People’s Party (PP) and Ciudadanos are offering a legal compromise, advocating for palliative care in the final stages of terminal sickness, so as to offer a dignified end.

The debate of the bill is due October 25.