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Perspectives on elderly people’s wish to die without being severely ill (completed)

  • Start: 2019
  • Status: completed, presented on 30 January 2020

The University of Humanistic Studies and the Julius Centrum of the UMCU jointly performed research in 2019 into elderly people’s wish to die without being severely ill, as part of the debate on a ‘completed life’. This specific wish to die was investigated both from the elderly people’s own perspective, as from General Practitioners’ medical perspective. The research was presented on 30 January 2020 and drew much media attention. 


Download the PERSPECTIEF report (in Dutch)

Description

As part of this research project, more than 20,000 citizens aged 55 and over were invited to complete  a questionnaire. Additionally, in-depth qualitative research was conducted and a survey was held among General Practitioners.


Research leader is Dr. Els van Wijngaarden, assistant professor and researcher at the University of Humanistic Studies. She previously performed qualitative researchc(book: Voltooid leven) into the experiential world of elderly people who feel that their life has come to completion. This new project continues the same line of research and was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Science and Sport and funded by ZonMw. The theme of assisted dying for reasons of ‘a completed life’ has been the subject of a public debate for many years.


In 2016, a government-appointed commission headed by Paul Schnabel examined how the Euthanasia Act relates to assisted dying for people who consider their life to be completed. The commission found that the current legislation in many cases does accommodate such assistance, since the accumulation of old age-related complaints can constitute a medical basis for euthanasia. The government commissioned a study to determine the size and circumstances of the group of people for whom the current legislation does not appear to offer the option of assistance in case of a wish to die.


Important research questions are: 

  • How often does it happen that relatively healthy people aged 55 and older no longer see any perspective in continuing to live and therefore have a strong wish to die?  
  • What existential, social and medical factors and circumstances play a role? 
  • To what extent does the current euthanasia act offer these people an option, for instance on account of a strong accumulation of old age-related complaints? 
  • And what are the similarities and what are the differences between people who do and those who do not wish to die?

Results

The results were presented on 30 January 2020 in the report Perspectieven op de doodswens bij voltooid leven: de mens en de cijfers [Perspectives on the wish to die for reasons of a completed life: the people and the numbers], which was offered to the Minister of Health, Hugo de Jonge.


Researchers

  • Dr. Els van Wijngaarden (UvH), projectleider
  • Dr. Ghislaine van Thiel (UMCU)
  • Dr. Alfred Sachs (UMCU)
  • Prof. Carlo Leget (UvH)
  • Dr. Cuno Uiterwaal (UMCU)
  • Iris Hartog. MSc (UvH)
  • Vera van den Berg, MSc (UvH)
  • Margot Zomers, MSC (UMCU)

Partners

Important research questions are: how often does it happen that relatively healthy people aged 55 and older no longer see any perspective in continuing to live and therefore have a strong wish to die?  What existential, social and medical factors and circumstances play a role? To what extent does the current euthanasia act offer these people an option, for instance on account of a strong accumulation of old age-related complaints? And what are the similarities and what are the differences between people who do and those who do not wish to die?

(Co-)financing

The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Science and Sport and was funded by ZonMw. 

Also see

Contact

Dr. Els van Wijngaarden, e.vanwijngaarden@uvh.nl.

The University of Humanistic Studies and the Julius Centrum of the UMCU jointly performed research in 2019 into elderly people’s wish to die without being severely ill, as part of the debate on a ‘completed life’.