Advanced European Bioethics Course on Suffering, Death & Palliative Care

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Ethical issues of medically assisted death in palliative care in a pluralistic world.

New developments in health care strengthen the promise of a better life for everyone. This process also influences the way societies deal with the end of life and with questions regarding the meaning of suffering and death. International debates often centre around the question whether medically hastening death is a proper means to preserve human dignity and quality of life. The other side of this issue is palliative care, defined by the WHO as the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. The suggestion that adequate palliative care helps prevent the cry for euthanasia and assisted dying, needs careful investigation.

Questions raised by these developments require thorough conceptual interpretation as well as ethical reflection. The objective of this course is to educate the participants on two main aspects: ethical questions of palliative care and medically assisted death, and philosophical, theological and medical reflections on the concepts of death and suffering. Attitudes towards death and dying, and the ethical aspects of continuing or foregoing medical treatment, and of medically assisted death receive considerable attention in this course. In addition,
the dimensions of spirituality, rituals and intercultural diversity are covered.

Subjects and Methods

The course consists of a series of lectures, discussions, parallel sessions and audiovisual materials centred around a variety of topics:
autonomy and dependence; palliative sedation and euthanasia; spirituality and palliative care; quality of life and a good death; scientific research in palliative care; moral deliberation. The parallel sessions are devoted to in-depth small group discussions and moral deliberation
on different real life cases and particular, contemporary issues in the area of end-of-life decisions.

Each group will consist of ten to fifteen participants, led by a faculty member. The course management strives for a diverse group of participants, with a large diversity in professional and cultural background. This diversity among both faculty and participants
stimulates fruitful exchange of ideas and enhances understanding of others’ professional and cultural perspectives on suffering, death and palliative care. The course language is English. Prior to the course participants will receive a syllabus with introductory readings. Since the programme schedule is strict, participants are advised to study these materials in advance.


Gert Olthuis is associate professor of medical humanities at the Radboudumc. He wrote his PhD thesis ‘Who cares’ on the moral attitude of professionals in palliative care practice. He is a university lecturer and researcher on various topics, incuding informal carers and end-of-life decision making.


Valesca Hulsman MA, course management
Telephone: +31 (0)24 36 15305
Twitter: @palcarecourse
Information and a registration form are also available online. Please go to You will find the course under ‘education’.

Keynote speaker: Prof. dr. Ralf Jox is a bioethicist, neurologist and palliative care specialist working as Full professor of medical ethics and of geriatric pallitiave care at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He is also the Director of the Institute of Humanities in Medicine (IHM), and Head of the Clinical Ethics Unit at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).


Tuesday afternoon 21 March 2023

Introduction into palliative care, Kris Vissers Keynote lecture, Ralf Jox

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Autonomy and Dependence, Gert Olthuis Parallel session: Autonomy and beneficence in terminal illness Scientific research in palliative care, Rien Janssens Suffering, Jelle van Gurp
Workshop: Art and Suffering
Documentary: ‘Choosing to Die’

Thursday 23 March 2023

Physician assisted dying, Marianne Dees Euthanasia in the Netherlands, Theo Boer Palliative sedation, Evelien Kuip & Maaike van der
Parallel sessions: case discussion using the Nijmegen method of moral deliberation

Friday 24 March 2023

Philosophical perspective on death, Enny Das
Cultural issues in death and dying, Natashe LemosDekker
Introduction into rituals regarding death and suffering, Joanna Wojtkowiak


Previous participants for this course came from diverse professional backgrounds, such as nursing, medicine, health care administration,
ethics, philosophy, theology and pastoral care, and PhD students in these areas. At the conclusion of the course participants will
receive a certificate. Participants are reminded that they may be eligible for continuing education credits from their professional association. Accreditation from the Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) and the Dutch register for Pastoral Carers (SKGV) will be applied for. Please contact the program coordinators for further details or if you have any questions regarding this issue.

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