James Kennedy Writes Book on
Euthanasia in the Netherlands
Posted February 22, 2002
HOLLAND -- A new book by Dr. James Kennedy of the
Hope College history faculty examines euthanasia in the
His book, "Een weloverwogen dood" ("A Well-
Considered Death") was published in Dutch by Amsterdam trade
publisher Bert Bakker in January. Kennedy recently
completed a series of 15 media interviews in the Netherlands
in conjunction with the book's release. He also presented a
seminar on the topic during the college's "Winter Happening"
on Saturday, Feb. 2.
According to Kennedy, in April of 2001 the
Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia.
He noted that physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands
does not require a terminal illness, and that under some
circumstances psychiatric patients may be euthanized.
Further, he said, the Dutch are currently discussing whether
or not older people who are "tired of living" should be
eligible for physician-assisted suicide.
Kennedy's book examines euthanasia in the
Netherlands and the social forces that have led to the Dutch
policy--particularly the strong sense of openness that began
in the 1960s--through the mid-1980s. By 1985, he noted, the
major contours of Dutch euthanasia were set, based on themes
worked out in the 1970s and 1980s.
As the Dutch continue to develop euthanasia
policy, he believes that the distance in time itself merits
"I do think that Dutch society has changed
significantly since the mid-1980s, and I want the Dutch to
consider whether current Dutch euthanasia policy--drawn so
much from the ideas and values of the 1970s that I analyze
in my book--was better suited to the Netherlands of
yesteryear than it is to the country of today," he said. "I
hope my book can be used as a retrospective on where the
Dutch have been in regard to their unique euthanasia
Kennedy has been a member of the Hope faculty
since, 1997, and is an assistant professor of history and a
research fellow at the college's A.C. Van Raalte Institute.
His publications include the 1997 book "Building New
Babylon: The Netherlands in the Sixties," a cultural
history of the postwar period in the Netherlands. He has
also published various articles on Dutch religious history.
He is a 1986 graduate of Georgetown University.
He holds a master of arts in religious studies from Calvin
College, and a doctorate in European history from the
University of Iowa.