Death On Request

Directed by Maarten Nederhorst

57 minutes / Color
Dutch / English subtitles
Release: 1996
Copyright: 1994

This gentle but astonishing documentary records Cees de Joode, a Dutch man suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - an incurable degenerative muscle disease better known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" -, as he, his wife Antoinette, and his doctor choose euthanasia to end his torment.

In 1993, it became obvious that the illness would swiftly take Cees' life. Already in a wheelchair, his legs and feet paralyzed, unable to move his right shoulder or arm, and almost incapable of speaking, Cees started a journal using his personal computer. He wrote in it "The possibility of euthanasia has for months been a comforting thought to me. It gets me on my feet again - at least figuratively. Literally, that's totally out of the question. It helps enormously in setting my limits." He let his doctor know that as his death approached, and his body degenerated further, he wished to choose his time to die.

DEATH ON REQUEST then chronicles the period after which Cees made this decision, the many visits his doctor paid on him and Antoinette, and the actual administration of the lethal injection. When the time comes, the doctor makes a final trip to see his patient "with lead in his shoes." Cees toasts their health, sips his last port, and slowly directs his wheelchair to his bed, where he will end his life peacefully, as he wished, with his wife and doctor present.

"*** [3 Stars] A discreet, tasteful, but unflinching look at the reality of [euthanasia]... This video is remarkably free of polemics and posturing. Viewers willing to confront a painful subject will find it an instructive, even moving experience. Strongly recommended." - S. Rees, Video Librarian

"[DEATH ON REQUEST] seems certain to become an essential document in the debate on euthanasia. It is a remarkable achievement, holding the viewer in an almost unbearable intimacy with what, probably for most of us, is an almost unthinkable situation." - Ian Mayes, The Guardian (London)

"One of the most powerful and emotionally draining pieces of television that I can recall seeing...The death, when it came, was quick, quiet, and devastating." - Matthew Bond, The Times (London)

"[DEATH ON REQUEST] goes far beyond our expectations in dealing with euthanasia, an extremely delicate moral issue which creates world-wide controversy. It is treated with such reserve and sensitivity that it goes straight to our hearts." - Banff Television Festival

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A Video by Maarten Nederhorst

Select Accolades

  • Silver Apple Winner, 1997 National Educational Media Network Competition
  • Freddie Award Winner, 1996 International Health & Medical Films Competition
  • Grand Prize Winner, 1995 Banff Television Festival


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