This remarkable book takes the reader into a Dutch nursing home where many of the 300 patients are terminally ill. The main protagonist is Anton, a competent, tough, and compassionate physician who tries to discover some meaning in the suffering of his patients, while at the same time disavowing any such meaning. Anton’s colleagues include Jaarsma, a somewhat detached and bureaucratic older physician, and Van Gooyer, a young physician who still believes that science has all the answers.

The first-person narrative consists of short, punchy segments (almost like an endless series of discrete physician-patient interactions) detailing the stories of Anton’s patients and his reactions to them. Many of these persons request assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anton reveals what he feels about these requests, how he goes about judging their validity, and the manner in which he actually carries out assisted deaths. A strong spiritual theme permeates the book; while Anton denies the relevance of God and religion, he seems constantly to be searching for a spirituality that "makes sense" of contemporary life.


The author indicates that this book is based on his experiences as a physician in a Dutch nursing home; hence, the "Memoir" genre. However, the patients and incidents are fictionalized, and the narrator is a somewhat cynical but humane physician named Anton who, presumably, is not identical with Bert Keizer. Thus, the book might also be considered fiction.

While the main theme is death, Dancing With Mister D is anything but somber. Keizer’s style is punchy and humorous, full of delightful images. He also includes many interesting reflections on the limits of medicine and the placebo effect. This book is a very good introduction to the human reality (as opposed to the ethics or legality) of physician-assisted death.


Translated from the original Dutch by the author.



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