A tree in a field in early morning
A tree in a field in early morning

The meaningful moments before euthanasia

2023 until 2027
Project member(s)
I. Ceelen (Iline)
Project type

Let me tell you a story. Walter is 56 years old and very ill. His wife, two children, friends and family know that Walter is going to have euthanasia within three weeks because Walter wants to die with dignity among his loved ones. It is very important to Walter that his family can say goodbye in a proper way and cope with their grief. 

But what actually helps with this 'special' way of dying, knowing when it happens? How do they spend the last weeks or days together so that continuing to live on is as bearable as possible for the people Walter loves most? What 'special' or 'meaningful moments' are there? 

I would like to research and answer these questions so that we can better guide those involved, such as Walter, his family and you, in the future. 

Participating in this research

This research is part of a PhD study on what special moments help people in saying goodbye and in grieving. That's why I need you. I am looking for people and their families who are going to undergo euthanasia in the next 12-18 months. I am asking you if I can speak to and visit you once the euthanasia decision has been made, so that I can observe what 'meaningful moments' you have, or create to say goodbye to life but which can also offer comfort to those left behind. Through this, we can better support people in the future who will go down the same path.

To achieve the research goals, I need you... 

iline.ceelen [at] ru.nl (Contact me)

About this project 

This PhD project undertakes a study of the ritualization of assisted dying in the Netherlands. What do people do before they receive euthanasia? How do their last meaningful moments help them say goodbye? How does it help their next of kin? These and other questions I will try to answer with the following research.


The project has three goals:

  1. Improve our understanding into the contemporary habits prior to assisted dying.
  2. Understanding what aspects of meaningful moments help those concerned. 
  3. Providing better support to facilitate a ‘good death’. 

So far, there has been no sustained research into the ritualization of this contemporary form of dying. However, assisted dying is an important social phenomenon that has the potential to challenge the status quo of ritual studies. Mainly because assisted dying gives the ultimate control about circumstances and timing of death and thus its highly “plannable". 

Expected results

The project is expected to result in a new understanding of ritual innovativeness. It will also lead to an improved understanding of ritual efficacy that includes for the first time the aspect of consolation.


Funding for this research project is provided by Radboud Universiteit.

Contact information