Social Medicine Talk Series - Dr. Natashe Lemos Dekker
“Anticipating An Unwanted Future: Euthanasia And Dementia In The Netherlands:”
The future with dementia is characterized by continuous speculation about biomedical possibilities of a cure and a future without dementia. At the same time, cure is not (yet) available, and dementia still too often inspires negative imaginaries in popular culture and media discourses.
As part of a book project on temporal experiences and ways of crafting the future at the end of life with dementia in the Netherlands, I show in this presentation how, for many of my interlocutors, the imagined future with dementia was a reason to re-quest euthanasia. However, timing euthanasia with dementia is extremely difficult and often results in the deferral of established boundaries.
Complicating euthanasia requests in this context is a dynamic in which the person with dementia is considered to lose the ability to oversee and decide on the timing of their request, resulting in an agonizing trade-off between being ‘too early’ and the fear of being ‘too late.’ In searching for ways to work through this conundrum, some have advocated that family members should gain legitimacy to decide on the timing of euthanasia based on a written will. While this shifts responsibility to the family, it may not solve the issue of timing. I examine how requests for euthanasia by people with dementia offer insight into the work of anticipation, revealing it to be a tem- poral orientation through which the future is made tangible. I show how my interlocutors negotiated emerging divergent horizons and temporal inequalities, and argue that anticipation is a process of establishing, collapsing, and renegotiating the temporal distance between present and future, bringing the future into the present while also, and simultaneously, keeping the future at bay as a continuous ‘not yet’.