Experiencing Interruptions?

Doctor Kees - In Search of Willy's Will

Is Willy still legally competent and can he decide for himself whether he wants to live or die? Or does his condition meet the criteria he wrote down earlier, and can he receive euthanasia based on his living will? A documentary about a doctor’s search for his patient’s will.

Kees is a specialist in geriatric medicine. He works at Vitalis Vaandelhof, a closed ward of a nursing home in Eindhoven. Willy has been living in this ward for more than a year. He has dementia and an acquired brain injury brought on by multiple cycling crashes. He suffers from periodic bouts of aggression and delusion, and is often lost in his thoughts. Willy’s family has indicated that he has set up a euthanasia request, and they wonder whether the time has come for Willy to receive euthanasia. His wife and (foster) children support his living will, because he has always said that he does not want to live this way. With help from Kees, they look for what is best for Willy.

Under strictly specified circumstances, physicians in the Netherlands are allowed to perform euthanasia and assisted suicide at the request of a patient. The criteria include a voluntary and well-considered request from the patient, unbearable suffering without any prospect of improvement, and the lack of a reasonable alternative.

  • Jesse
    A Dignified Death
  • Jesse van Venrooij
    A Dignified Death
  • Theo Raben
    Coach editor
  • Eline van der Kaa
    camera and edit -vassistent
  • Tom Sikkers
    Music composer
  • Olivier Nijs
    Sound design
  • Frans Suijs
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Dokter Kees - zoekend naar de wil van Willy
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 3 minutes 11 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 12, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    36,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
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  • Student Project:
  • Tuschinski world première with NVVE
    February 6, 2021
    World premiere
Director Biography - Jesse

Jesse van Venrooij (1985) is born in Oisterwijk, a village in the south of the Netherlands. Afther his study Bachelor of Social Work Jesse found out the power of the camera and storytelling. He started his own film-company FilmMoment in 2012. Since 2016 Jesse started with his first independent documentary's. Key points; personal, high integrity level, documentary's without judgement.

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Director Statement

Doctor Kees is my second documentary about the ethical dilemmas of euthanasia in a difficult situation. A Dignified Death, released in 2018 (www.adignifieddeath.com) is about Eelco de Gooijer. On November 23, 2016, Eelco received euthanasia based on psychiatric suffering. The doctor who performed Eelco’s euthanasia was Kees. A few months after Eelco’s death, Kees approached me with the dilemma he was facing as a geriatric specialist: euthanasia for legally incompetent patients. Kees wanted to show a nuanced picture of the complexity of this dilemma. That was the first reason to work on this documentary.

There is also a personal development that inspired me to make this film. When I was fourteen years old, I witnessed my grandfather’s death. He had advanced dementia and lived in a closed ward. On the day he turned 76, all his children (my uncles and aunts) and I were there with him. After a long period of suffering—the last days of which without food or drink—he died on his birthday, in our presence. Euthanasia was not possible at the time and therefore not discussed. I hope I won’t have to experience this myself. I wish that everyone who ends up in an unbearable situation without prospect of improvement will get the chance to leave their life with dignity, with the help of a committed doctor. In my eyes, Kees is a man who saves lives. The lives of the patients he helps, but also of the patients’ loved ones. Dignity and sincere attention to the last breath. Making this documentary has taught me to enjoy life even more. And I have learned how incredibly complex it is to act carefully and make the right decisions in this process. Therefore, I hope that Doctor Kees will offer nuance and opportunities for conversation about this sensitive subject.