Management Seminars: Natashe Lemos Dekker
Natashe Lemos Dekker (PhD Research student, University of Amsterdam)
G.15, 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road
Title: Anticipating an unwanted future: Euthanasia and dementia in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is a legal, but strongly regulated practice. The number of requests for euthanasia in the case of dementia is rising, which is accompanied by lively public debates on how and if euthanasia for people with dementia should be made possible. Without advocating any of the standpoints in this debate, this paper explores the request for euthanasia as an act of responding to, and preparing for, an envisioned but unwanted future.
The request for euthanasia by people with dementia is often driven by a view that the end of life with dementia is undignified. In the struggle to preserve dignity at the end of life, many people in the Netherlands who have dementia, explore the possibilities of requesting euthanasia. This reflects a view that is strongly related to modernist ideas of being able to control possible futures beforehand.
Important in the case of dementia, is that the boundaries people with dementia set for themselves, to indicate the point at which they feel life is no longer worth living or dignified, shift as the disease progresses. Whereas certain situations may seem unbearable beforehand, once they occur people can learn to cope with them. This makes the moment in which euthanasia should be carried out very difficult to define. The request for euthanasia then becomes obsolete. In general, people with dementia are not requesting for euthanasia because they do not want to live, but rather to prevent a process of decay and future suffering. This dynamic is paralleled by the experience of anticipating future suffering which can also cause suffering in the present.
What does this tell us about our capacity to anticipate, and of the images we construct of the future with dementia that give shape to this anticipation?
Biographical statement: Natashe Lemos Dekker is a PhD candidate in the medical anthropology department at the University of Amsterdam. Her research is on long-term care and dementia in the Netherlands with a specific focus on the end of life and the politics of death. Based on ethnographic fieldwork she analyzes the social processes and the management of death and dying with dementia. She holds a Master of Arts (Gender and Ethnicity studies) and a Master of Science (Cultural Anthropology) from Utrecht University.