Docuseries ‘A good death’ examines euthanasia practice in the Netherlands

Docuseries ‘A good death’ examines euthanasia practice in the Netherlands
Docuseries ‘A good death’ examines euthanasia practice in the Netherlands

For years, the mother of documentary maker Elena Lindemans struggled with serious psychological problems. Her euthanasia request was rejected. A few days later she saw no other way out than to jump from an apartment building. Now, more than twenty years later, Elena investigates whether anything has changed in the care provided to people who suffer mentally and have an expressed wish to die.

Are they being heard now? Or are they often still on their own? In the BNNVARA documentary series ‘A good death’, the literal translation of the ancient Greek word ‘euthanasia’, Elena follows six people who no longer want to suffer due to psychological problems and ask for euthanasia. The series shows how people can die with dignity with the help of a doctor, but also how difficult a euthanasia process still is for some.

In the series, Elena also follows doctors and psychiatrists who sometimes face major dilemmas. The Netherlands has had a Euthanasia Act since 2001 in which no distinction is made between physical and psychological suffering, but this distinction does exist in practice. Doctors are reluctant to provide euthanasia to people with psychological problems or dementia.

Elena: ‘If people are allowed to end their lives humanely with the help of a doctor, it brings great relief and even joy. That was sometimes a strange sensation. I saw people, as death came closer, beaming because they now did not have to commit suicide.’

Persons in the series
For two years, the last months, weeks, days and sometimes even hours of six people who wanted to take control of their own lives were followed. After years of waiting, Pythia (64) and Marte (26) were given euthanasia by a psychiatrist from the Euthanasia Expertise Center. Yvonne’s psychiatrist (56) ultimately decided to provide euthanasia himself – for the first time. Wil (79) found the euthanasia process ‘to be allowed to die’ so difficult that she took drug X. Marij (88) did not want to ‘end up in a nursing home’ because of her dementia and had agreed with her GP that she would receive euthanasia at a desired time ‘because of the prospect of suffering’, but things did not go as she had planned.

Ten years ago, Elena made the prize-winning documentary ‘Mothers don’t jump from flats’ (2014) about her mother Willemien. After her euthanasia request was rejected, she jumped from the eleventh floor of an apartment – with the knowledge of Elena, her sister and mother’s partner. In that documentary she investigates why doctors could not help her then, and whether they would have done so now. The documentary led to a hearing in the House of Representatives at the time. Last year, Elena also made the documentary series ‘In de TBS’ (2023) and ‘2Doc: Onconditional’ (2024).

The four-part ‘A good death’ can be seen weekly from Monday, May 6 at 10:10 PM on BNNVARA on NPO 2.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Docuseries good death examines euthanasia practice Netherlands


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