The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death

November 02, 2016

Conference with Keynote by Dr. Eike-Henner Kluge

November 2–3, Rooms 7000 & 1700, SFU Harbour Centre

Co-sponsored by SFU's J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities, Institute for the Humanities, Department of HumanitiesGraduate Liberal StudiesDepartment of Gerontology, and the Gerontology Research Centre

Event is FREE and open to the public. Registration is required for Keynote only.

Gerontology Research Centre

Questions regarding the end of life––about dying, suicide, and death––have been with humanity from ancient times. Many thinkers have wrestled with the realities of suffering and mortality, and how we as humans, individually and collectively, can be the most humane, compassionate, and just in face of such certainties. Only one thing appears sure, and this is that people draw upon different resources and perspectives when facing the end of life.

This conference is intended to provide space for pondering the complex and agonizing decisions regarding the end of life. Space for such conversations is especially needed given the 2015 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada declaring that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes upon section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the introduction of Bill C-14, which has resulted in debate about who, when, and in what circumstances an individual may make such a decision.

Speakers include academics, graduate students, and practitioners who will speak from their own particular perspectives: legal, ethical, medical, and spiritual or religious. Insights from literature and art, some of humanity’s most treasured resources, will also be drawn upon.


  • Wednesday, November 2, 6:00PM–8:00PM (doors open at 5:30PM), room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre
    • Keynote by Dr. Eike-Henner Kluge, Reflections on Dying
  • Thursday, November 3, 9:00AM–4:30PM, room 1700, SFU Harbour Centre
    • Registration (coffee/tea and snacks), 9:00AM, in front of room
    • Welcome by Dr. Jane Pulkingham, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, SFU
    • Praxis Panel, 9:30AM–11:30AM, Moderator: Hilda Fernandez
      1. Venerable Yin Kit Sik, The Role of Mindfulness in End-of-Life Care
      2. Rabbi Laura D. Kaplan, Turning Responsibly Towards Death: A Jewish Pastoral Perspective
      3. Dr. Jeffrey Berkshire, Saying Goodbye to Your Best Friend: A Veterinarian's Perspective on End-of-Life Care and Humane Euthanasia
    • Academia Panel, 11:30AM–1:30PM, Moderator: Dr. Samir Gandesha
      1. Dr. Andrew Sixsmith, AGE-WELL: Canada's Network on Ageing and Technology
      2. Dr. Valorie A. Crooks, Resilience in the Practice of Informal Caregiving: A Socio-environmental Exploration
      3. Robert Beringer, Dignity, End-of-Life, and Concerns in the LGBTQ Community
      4. Dr. Larry Green, Intimations of Mortality: Previews of the End
    • Lunch (independent), 1:30PM–2:30PM
    • Literature Panel, 2:30PM–4:30PM, Moderator: Dr. Stephen Duguid
      1. Meghan Grant, Expressing the Individual's Right to Die: Bill C-14 within Charles Taylor's Modern Moral Order
      2. Morgan Young, Death as Villain: The Quest for Immortality in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time"
      3. Gayle Thom, Tolstoy's Gerasim in "The Death of Ivan Ilyich"
      4. Margaret Easton, What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today: "Women of Trachis" and Bill C-14
  • Thursday, November 3, 5:00PM–7:00PM, The Wine Room, Steamworks, 375 Water Street
    • Appies, coffee, and tea will be provided, and alcohol can be purchased through the cash bar
    • Space is limited so click HERE to register

Keynote: "Reflections on Dying"

This talk is about death and dying. Not about dying unexpectedly or by accident, but about dying as an event that in principle is within our control: as an event of which we can claim ownership because it is our final act as human beings and as persons. I am going to suggest that to institutionalize dying—to turn it into a purely medical phenomenon that has no connection with how we have lived our lives, or to shape it according to laws that are reflective of a traditional morality that is out of step with our competent values—or, what is even worse, to be denied a death that is in keeping with our competently held values and forced to live where every breath is a reminder that our values have been measured and found wanting—is to alienate us from what grounds us as human beings and as persons. If that happens, our death will be the end of our journey, but we will not own it; and our life, if such should be forced on us, will not be genuine but a forced game. This talk is about dying as persons, and about what that means.

Eike-Henner W. Kluge—B.A.(Calgary), A.M., Ph.D. (Mich.)—taught at various universities in the US and Canada before coming to the University of Victoria. In 1989, he was asked by the Canadian Medical Association to establish the Department of Ethics and Legal Affairs, and was its first Director. He was the first expert witness in medical ethics recognized by Canadian courts, and has acted in that capacity in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. He has been a consultant to Health Canada, various provincial Ministries of Health and Health Regions, as well as to the Office of the B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner, and has presented invited testimony to Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees. He has written three books and numerous articles on assisted suicide and deliberate death, and was the ethics consultant for Sue Rodriguez in her challenge of sec. 241 (b) of the Criminal Code (prohibition of assisted suicide) which, although it failed, ultimately led to the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) which struck down that section and led to the 2016 legalization of physician assisted death. From 2004 to 2010 he was the Canadian Bioethics Society’s delegate to the Canadian Council on Animal Care. He is a member of WG4 (Security in Health Information Systems) of the International Medical Informatics Association, was the author of its Code of Ethics (translated into 9 languages) and wrote the accompanying Handbook of Ethics for Health Informatics Professionals. In 2005 he received the Award for Research Excellence of the UVic Faculty of Humanities, and in 2007 he was awarded the Abbyann Lynch Medal in Bioethics by the Royal Society of Canada.

Praxis Panel

Venerable Yin Kit has been a Buddhist nun since 1992, ordained under Venerable Sing Yat in Hong Kong. Venerable Yin Kit has many roles as the spiritual leader of Po Lam. She is involved in leading numerous workshops teaching hospice care and hospital spiritual care in Hong Kong and in Canada. The Venerable is also the advisor to the Hong Kong SPGA Hospice program. In 2005, Venerable Yin Kit established the Compassionate Centre for Health, a service for the Chinese-speaking community in the Greater-Vancouver area. This group has grown to over fifty active volunteers who visit senior homes and palliative care units at several sites. The Venerable has spent decades in hospitals, hospices, and homes, assisting people through their death. Through these experiences, her understanding of how to compassionately and wisely care for those dying and their families has changed as a result of constantly reflecting on what she experiences and what she learns as a Buddhist nun living in the West in the 21st century. 

Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan is Director of Inter-Religious Studies and Professor of Jewish Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology. As Rabbi of Or Shalom Synagogue (2005-2014), she accompanied people spiritually at all stages of the lifecycle. As Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte (1989-2004), she helped students use philosophy to understand their life narratives. Laura, an accomplished scholar as well as spiritual teacher, holds a B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Brandeis University, a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Education from Claremont Graduate University, Rabbinic Ordination from ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal seminary, and a Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction from the Vancouver School of Theology. Her books include Philosophy and Everyday Life (Seven Bridges Press, 2002), and Family Pictures: A Philosopher Explores the Familiar (Open Court Press, 1998). She blogs at

Dr. Jeff Berkshire, DVM, MSc, BSc, is originally from Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. He completed his Bachelors of Science at Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Following completion his Masters of Science in Animal Science at the University of British Columbia, he worked at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre for two years before enrolling at the Atlantic Veterinary College where he graduated in 2005. Dr. Berkshire has practiced small animal medicine and surgery for over 11 years. He is currently the owner of “Lifting Stars Pet Homecare,” a mobile veterinary service for companion animals offering compassionate end-of-life services in the comfort of home. In addition, Dr. Berkshire works as Locum Veterinarian at Granville Island Veterinary Hospital and maintains a seasonal position as Seminar Provider with Zoetis. Dr. Berkshire is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.

Academia Panel

Andrew Sixsmith was appointed Professor and Director of the Gerontology Research Centre at SFU in September 2007. He is also Deputy Director of the SFU Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) Centre and President of the International Society for Gerontechnology (ISG) for 2014–2016. Dr. Sixsmith has been a member of the British Society of Gerontology Executive Committee and has been UK representative on the EU's COST-A5 Committee on Ageing and Technology. Since 2000 he has developed research and teaching links with 26 universities worldwide and has actively collaborated with over 30 major commercial and government organisations.

Valorie Crooks is a Professor in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University. She is a health geographer by training and specializes in health services research. She currently holds a Scholar Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canada Research Chair in Health Service Geographies. For over a decade she has been involved in research on palliative care. This research has primarily examined informal caregiving and location modelling for palliative care service siting.

Robert Beringer has a Master’s Degree in Gerontology from Simon Fraser University. The research for his M.A. degree was focused on gerontechnology and aging-in-place. Since completing this degree he has worked as a researcher and consultant through his own company Vibrant Living and Lifestyle Systems INC. He is currently pursuing an interdisciplinary doctorate in social sciences at Royal Roads University in Victoria BC. His doctoral research will focus on LGBTQ aging in non-metropolitan (rural and small town) settings. He participated in the Fostering End-of-Life Conversations, Community and Care among LGBT Older Adults project and his role was concerned with the development of the British Columbia End-of-Life Resource Inventory, promoting the Vancouver LGBT Town Hall Meeting, and overseeing the development of the LGBT End-of-Life Conversations website.

Larry Green is currently an Adjunct Professor at City University Canada in Vancouver where he teaches in the Counselling Psychology Graduate Program. He received a Ph.D. from SFU in the Philosophy of Education Program. His dissertation focused on the relationship between the reflective mind and the pre-reflective self. Additionally, he has been a practicing psychotherapist for over 44 years where he assists his clients to bring their hearts and minds together


Meghan Grant obtained her Bachelor’s of Arts and Certificate in Religious Studies at SFU. She is currently in her final semester of the Master’s program in the Department of Humanities. Her graduate work focuses on food and religion, and how food practices like vegetarianism, veganism, and the raw movement are by nature, religious. Much of her research focuses on the work of Dr. Charles Taylor, whose "A Secular Age" has been instrumental to her graduate career. Her other research interests include both Occidental and Eastern religions, New Age religion and the Occult, secularity, food ecology, green religion and the environment, the culture and history of food, the treatment of animals, and the systemic use of language concerning agri-commercial activities.    

Morgan Young has an interdisciplinary background, mostly in music, anthropology, and philosophy. She is currently an MA Student in the Department of Humanities at SFU. She is interested in the Frankfurt School and related theorists on art and critical aesthetics. In particular, she is interested in the utopian dimension of the Frankfurt School, and the Romantic critique of capitalism. She is exploring the idea of art as transformative experience and as site of resistance. Her thesis is focused on developing a critical theory of fantasy as a part of a broader category of theory for radical speculative fiction. Morgan also enjoys singing, writing, and cuddles with her cats.

Gayle Thom is an MA student in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at SFU, currently focusing on the origins and understanding of honour and the virtues under the guidance and teaching of Dr. Stephen Duguid. Gayle works as part of the senior management team at Horizon Distributors, an organic and natural food distributor, as Director of Procurement & Marketing, where she oversees procurement, pricing, supplier relations, marketing, brand management and publishing. Her interest in honour is inspired by her active engagement in the training and traditions of Okinawan Shotokan karate which, through dedication to practice and commitment to ritual, has deepened her compassion for all living beings and further enhanced her reverence for the natural world. 

Margaret Easton has MA’s in Liberal Studies and Gerontology from SFU and is currently a PhD student in Graduate Liberal Studies. Her doctoral research hopes to advance knowledge of the conditions essential to human flourishing in “societies of longer lives” and focuses on understanding self and personhood in the aging process. Margaret recently taught "Adult Development & Aging" at the University of Calgary and will be teaching "The History of Suicide and Euthanasia" in the Liberal Arts/55+ Program in 2017. She is also the coordinator for the SFU Shadbolt Graduate Liberal Studies Big Ideas Seminar Series, a program that is offered in local community centers and facilitated by GLS students.