Els van Wijngaarden

Winner Dissertation Prize 2017

Ready to give up on life. A study into the lived experience of older people who consider their lives to be completed and no longer worth living.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. C. Leget, Prof dr. A. Goossensen
Nomination: University of Humanistic Studies

Report by the Selection Committee 

This dissertation examines a highly explosive theme, the phenomenon of a ‘fulfilled life’, in a balanced, lucid and sensitive way. The author researches the scientific context within which this phenomenon is written about. Drawing on interviews, she explores the factors that influence older people who wish to end their lives. She complements this empirical research in an interesting and thorough manner with an overview of existing provisions on the one hand, and external criticism on the other. In her research the author links various academic disciplines and fields of research, such as phenomenology, the psychology of medical studies and ethics. Her combination of individual histories, social structure and moral reflection makes this a finely balanced study. Moreover, this is the world’s first study to put forward empirical arguments in the discussion on rational suicide, which to date has largely been a theoretical debate. The jury was impressed by the qualitative analysis and hopes that the work will prove exemplary in future debates on this important social issue.