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IN MEMORIAM Adelbert Josephus Jitta

On June 30, 2010 Adelbert Josephus Jitta passed away. He died at the age of 71 in dignity, making use of the law of which he may be called one of the founding fathers.

When serving as Chief Prosecutor in the Alkmaar District, he was – professionally and personally –  confronted a number of times with the issue of dignity in dying. One morning, cycling from home to his office, he saw two young policemen tidying away the human remains of a man who just committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. This prompted him to contact D66 politician Wessel-Tuinstra who was working on a members initiative to regulate the possibilities for a dignified death. He became a member of her working group and wrote the draft bill that was presented in the Parliament in 1984. This bill to a great extent still forms the basis for the existing Dutch law, that was approved and implemented in 2002.

A second initiative that contributed immensely to the current practice of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in the Netherlands, was his calling for a meeting with the (“his”) regional doctors, to reach an agreement on a protocol for reporting cases of euthanasia. This opened up the communication between prosecutor and doctor in cases of euthanasia, an issue of great importance for the so much requested transparancy. His so called “Alkmaarse Methode” was and still is exemplary for the rest of the country. It still explains why probably the Alkmaar region still has the highest percentage of reporting cases in the Netherlands!

He was a well respected member of the board of NVVE, the Dutch RtD Society (1994-2002). His expertise in this field was valuable when in 1999 Els Borst brought her draft euthanasia bill to the Parliament. NVVE rewarded him because of his merits for the development of the legal possibility for a death in dignity with an Honorary Membership.

Aycke Smook worked as surgeon in Alkmaar with him and also was member of the NVVE board in the same period. His tribute can be read here