Els van Wijngaarden
universitair hoofddocent, onderzoeker
associate professor, researcher
wetenschappelijk personeel, Leerstoel Zorgethiek
Els van Wijngaarden (1976) works as an associate professor in Care Ethics at the University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Her main line of research concerns ethical and existential questions regarding death and dying in old age with a specific interest for the role of choice and control at the end-of-life. This research line reflects her interest in how older people live towards the end of life in the context of longevity and disabled life expectancy. Moreover, it explores the trend towards managing and controlling the time and manner of death and dying, and how the emphasis on choice affects how we age and die. She also aims to unravel the socio-cultural and relational dynamics underlying these changing sensibilities about death and dying.
Important themes within her line of research are: experiences of meaning and meaninglessness in late life, living with (and the fear for) dementia, social imaginaries of death and dying in old age, death wishes and the self-chosen death.
With her PhD on ‘completed life in old age’ (2016), she was the first to explore experiences of relatively healthy older people with a strong wish for a self-directed death as they considered their lives no longer worth living. Her study was awarded the prestigious Research Prize 2017 of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation. Her current research line builds on this pioneering work. Van Wijngaarden’s projects include: (1) Memento Mori Revisited, a multi-perspective and longitudinal project that aims to unravel the role of choice regarding death and dying in old age, combining conceptual and empirical research; (2) Discourse and social imaginaries on death and dying in old age, a study that analyses the social imaginary of ‘death in old age’ that predominantly constitute the public view on death and dying in old age, and explore how it impacts people’s lives; (3) The 'Perspectives on Death Wishes in Older People' project, a large, nation-wide inquiry (commissioned by the Dutch government) into death wishes and experiences of ‘completed life’ in old age, in which she and her multidisciplinary team investigate the prevalence, characteristics and motives of Dutch older people with a death wish, and (4) Narrative research into formal and informal care practices for people with dementia and their networks, exploring the lifeworlds of those concerned and the challenges of (choosing) death.
By exploring the complexities and unprecedented challenges posed by the new sensibilities about death in old age, Van Wijngaarden’s research speaks directly to scholars working in the field of death and dying and old age. Alongside its academic relevance, it also informs social policy makers, health professionals, and the broader public. Van Wijngaarden publishes, presents, and speaks to the media frequently on topics within these themes.
Personal website: www.elsvanwijngaarden.com
- Hartog, I., Zomers, M.L., van Thiel, G.J.M.W., Leget, C.J.W., Sachs, A.P.E., Uiterwaal, C.S.P., van den Berg, V; Wijngaarden, E.J. van (2020). Prevalence and characteristics of older adults with a persistent death wish without severe illness: a large cross-sectional survey. BMC Geriatrics. 20:342, 1-14.
- Wijngaarden, E. van, Alma, M., The, A-M. (2019) ‘The eyes of others’ are what really matters: the experience of living with dementia from an insider-perspective, PLOS|One.
- Wijngaarden, E. van, Wedden, H. van der, Henning, Z., Komen, R., The, A-M. (2018) Entangled in uncertainty: the experience of living with dementia from the perspective of family caregivers. PLOS|One.
- Wijngaarden, E.J. van, Leget, C.J.W., Goossensen, A. (2018) The social-political challenges behind the wish to die in older people who consider their lives to be completed and no longer worth living, The European Journal of Social Policy.
- Wijngaarden, E.J., Klink, A., Leget, C.J.W., The, B.A.M. (2017) Assisted dying for healthy elderly people in The Netherlands: a step too far? The BMJ.
- Wijngaarden, E.J. van, Leget, C.J.W., Goossensen, A. (2016). Caught between intending and doing:older people ideating on a self-chosen death, BMJ Open.
- Wijngaarden, E.J. van, Leget, C.J.W., Goossensen, A. (2015). Till death do us part: the lived experience of an elderly couple who chose to end their lives by spousal self- euthanasia, The Gerontologist.
- Wijngaarden, E.J. van, Leget, C.J.W., Goossensen, A. (2015). Ready to give up on life: the lived experience of elderly people who feel life is accomplished and no longer worth living, Social Science and Medicine.