Doctor Kees is my second documentary about the ethical dilemmas of euthanasia in a difficult situation. A Dignified Death, released in 2018 (www.adignifieddeath.com) is about Eelco de Gooijer. On November 23, 2016, Eelco received euthanasia based on psychiatric suffering. The doctor who performed Eelco’s euthanasia was Kees. A few months after Eelco’s death, Kees approached me with the dilemma he was facing as a geriatric specialist: euthanasia for legally incompetent patients. Kees wanted to show a nuanced picture of the complexity of this dilemma. That was the first reason to work on this documentary.
There is also a personal development that inspired me to make this film. When I was fourteen years old, I witnessed my grandfather’s death. He had advanced dementia and lived in a closed ward. On the day he turned 76, all his children (my uncles and aunts) and I were there with him. After a long period of suffering—the last days of which without food or drink—he died on his birthday, in our presence. Euthanasia was not possible at the time and therefore not discussed. I hope I won’t have to experience this myself. I wish that everyone who ends up in an unbearable situation without prospect of improvement will get the chance to leave their life with dignity, with the help of a committed doctor. In my eyes, Kees is a man who saves lives. The lives of the patients he helps, but also of the patients’ loved ones. Dignity and sincere attention to the last breath. Making this documentary has taught me to enjoy life even more. And I have learned how incredibly complex it is to act carefully and make the right decisions in this process. Therefore, I hope that Doctor Kees will offer nuance and opportunities for conversation about this sensitive subject.