Jan Bernheim - Belgium's end-of-life expertise
Belgian professor Jan Bernheim is one of the world's leading experts in palliative care and medically assisted dying and a senior researcher at the End-of-Life Care Research Group at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels) and Ghent University, one of the world's largest organisations specialising in the subject. Belgium was the second country to legalise medically assisted dying (in 2002) and Bernheim, a retired doctor and oncologist, was co-founder of the first palliative care service on the European continent in 1979. He has a rare ability to speak authoritatively on both palliative care at end of life and voluntary euthanasia. He says the Belgian experience showed that the development of palliative care and the process of legalising voluntary euthanasia could be mutually reinforcing, and the provision of adequate palliative care in Belgium made the legalisation of euthanasia ethically and politically acceptable. Berheim is in New Zealand at the invitation of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society for a nine-city speaking tour which will end in Auckland on June 17.