Interview with Dr. Rob Jonquiere, M.D. – Executive Director, World Federation of Right to Die Societies

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Dr. Rob Jonquiere, M.D. is the Executive Director of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. Here we talk about the right to die.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g., geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?

Rob Jonquiere: I am Dutch born in 1944, had no religious upbringing. I went to University (Leiden) to study Medicines (graduated to MD in 1972).

Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated, been an autodidact?

Jonquiere: see above. After graduation, I started to work as Family Doctor (GP) in my own (solo) practice in Hengelo (O). Since there was no formal vocational training for GP in that time, you could say I educated myself in the peculiarities of this specialisation (that currently takes 3 years).

In a way, you could also defend that my practicing end-of-life care, euthanasia included, also is self educated.

Jacobsen: What distinguishes right to die, dying with dignity, euthanasia, and medical assistance in dying, and so on?

Jonquiere: These different terms are used in different countries, and unfortunately enough the definitions are not always the same.  “Our” issue is about actions at the end of life, primarily on the request of the person involved. It is about “choice”, “self determination” and autonomy.

More and more we tend to leave the use of ‘right to die’ since every individual of course has the right to die – since we all die! Of course to be complete it should be: the right to die in a dignified way and at the time and place of one’s choice (but that is too long to use).

Since mostly such way of dying is achieved with the help of a doctor, nowadays we more often use the general term of ‘medically assisted dying’ (see Canada where one speaks of MaID).

Leaving out the M(edically) if the assistance is not given by a doctor – as in Switzerland where legally a lay person is allowed (under strict conditions) to assist someone with his/her suicide.

Jacobsen: What other organizations, books, and researchers/activists should people interested or intrigued in this subject matter pay more attention to now?

Jonquiere: There is a lot to be mentioned, too much to do here. My advice would be to look at our World Federation of Right to Die Societies (WFRtDS) website www.worldrtd.net or visit national societies (look for lemma Member Organisations on left side of home page).

Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come with being the Executive Director of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies?

Jonquiere: After I retired as CEO of the Dutch Right to Die Society NVVE, I became involved in the international movement WFRtDS. This is a – volunteer based – umbrella. In my role as Executive I am responsible for keeping up the website, I support the Committee (5 members from all over the world) executing the consequences of their decisions.

As ED I also function as the central contact point for issues in relation with the international movement and our 51 members.

Jacobsen: Who are the perennial and newer opposition or even enemies of those working for the right to die?  What are their standard arguments? What rights considerations, facts, and arguments counter their claims and, even potentially, misrepresentations of the right to die movement?

Jonquiere: Generally seen the mainstream of opposition comes from the religious side: orthodox protestants in NL, and Catholicism world wide. Of course nowadays we find opposition from palliative care groups, but my opinion is that the whole idea of palliative care is mainly religion-based on Christian Charity and Samaritanism.

Standard arguments are mostly that every life is worth to be lived, of course ignoring that a person can consider his/her live as no longer “humane” and thus wants it to end it rather than to live on in a situation considered to be inhumane. 

Jacobsen: What are the largest direct victories for the right to die movement? What have been some of the more nuanced wins in history, which have a subtle, less directly impactful, but important, sociocultural impact on the perspectives of the right to die movement in the nations that have an organized front for the right to die movement?

Jonquiere: The movement as such only ‘celebrated’ victories in countries/states/jurisdictions were the right for people to make their own choice (practically everywhere in the world population studies show overwhelming support of over 75%) at the end of life is legalised: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, 7 states in USA, Colombia, Victoria (Aus) and Canada at the moment.

Jacobsen: What are the newest battlegrounds? How can people become involved, active, and work to change the general cultural attitudes around the right to die, legally and socioculturally?

Jonquiere: Strong advocacy is found around the world in many countries: France, UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, USA, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. You will find in all these countries RtD Societies that advocate (see on www.worldrtd.net/member-organizations).

Jacobsen: If individuals and communities want to start organizations and groups devoted to this form of activism, how can they start to do it?

Jonquiere: Again: visit the WFRtDS website at www.worldrtd.net/joining-information.

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?

Jonquiere: Not specifically.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Rob.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Alexander Tsang on Unsplash

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