A new book by Dr. James Kennedy of the Hope College history faculty examines euthanasia in the Netherlands.
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 consideration.
"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 policy."
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.