Dying With Dignity: assisted dying principles and practices

Neil Francis, President and CEO, Dying With Dignity, Victoria
Professor Jan Bernheim, Dept Human Ecology, Faculty of Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels and End-of-Life Care Research Group, Belgium

The Hawke Centre logoFriday 22 October 2010

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Allan Scott Auditorium, UniSA City West campus, Hawke Building ground floor (rear of building) 50-55 North Terrace, Adelaide

The Hawke Centre is mindful that draft legislation relating to assisted dying has recently been brought forward for debate in SA and Victorian Parliaments. We are pleased to be able to present this session on 'Dying with Dignity'. It will feature speakers from the Melbourne biennial Conference of The World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies, giving Adelaide audiences expert information on current issues and established international practice. Elizabeth Ho, Director Hawke Centre

Neil Francis will briefly outline the need for and principles of assisted dying for those with a terminal illness or the advanced stage of an incurable illness. He will discuss how the current law does and doesn't work, and a range of safeguards and protections that can afford protection for those not wanting to use such an option. He will describe how such a law works, using the USA State of Oregon - whose Death With Dignity Act came into effect in 1997 - as an example.

Professor Jan Bernheim will discuss the assisted-dying law of Belgium, which has been in force since 2002. He will discuss how physician-assisted dying and palliative care are not only not mutually hostile there, but go hand in hand. He will describe how the main arguments against the legalisation of physician-assisted dying (impeding the development of palliative care), and claimed slippery-slope effects for 'vulnerable' groups were proven wrong. Finally, he will outline the practice of integral palliative care which is now practised in Belgium, including assisted dying.

Mr Neil Francis

Neil FrancisPresident and CEO of Dying With Dignity Victoria, working closely with all the State and Territory Dying With Dignity and Voluntary Euthanasia societies for law reform to allow the terminally ill to seek and obtain physician assistance to die peacefully according to their own values and beliefs - with appropriate safeguards.

Like many Australians he has personal experiences of loved ones having either a good or an awful death. This has lead him to be active in promoting community conversation around end-of-life, as well as law reform to provide a wider range of choices that are wanted by the overwhelming majority of the community. He works to engage public, private and professional dialogue with a wide range of constituencies, and is focused on evidence-based decision making supported by strong ethical principles.

Neil comes from a background of medical research, technology, business, education and communications. He is Chair of the World Federation of Right To Die Societies Global Biennial Conference 2010, held in Melbourne, 6-10th October.

Jan BernheimProfessor Jan Bernheim

Prof. Jan Bernheim, Department of Human Ecology, Faculty of Medicine, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, and Researcher, End-of-Life Care Research Group, Belgium

A medical oncologist, Jan Bernheim has successively worked at the universities of Gent, Amsterdam, Butare (Rwanda), UC San Diego and Brussels. His publications include over 100 international peer-reviewed articles, ranging from studies of cell death to quality of life and end-of-life issues. In 1979 he co-founded the first Palliative Care organisation in continental Europe and the European Study Group for Quality of Life.

Recently retired, he is a researcher in end-of-life issues and quality of life in the End-of-Life Care Research Group, the study group Evolution, Cognition and Complexity (ECCO) and the Centrum Leo Apostel for interdisciplinary research of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Coma Science Research Group of the University of Li├Ęge.

 We wish to acknowledge the support of Dying With Dignity Victoria in the organisation of this event.


While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.

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