Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Harvey Max Chochinov

Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba and Senior Scientist at the Research Institute of Oncology and Haematology, CancerCare Manitoba, is one of the world’s most innovative and influential proponents of improved and expanded palliative care across multiple dimensions of life-limiting or life-ending conditions.  The institutional and technical power of modern medicine creates an urgent need for enlightened and humane care for those whose end-of-life is managed increasingly by specialists in medical settings.  Dr. Chochinov’s pioneering work has significantly advanced effective recognition and treatment of end-of-life distress, depression, desire for death, and vulnerability.  His empirical research provides guidelines for dignity conserving palliative care and psychosocial intervention. The issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide in institutionalized medical care now demand a comprehensive understanding of our ethical and social responsibilities, and governments of countries around the world have turned towards Dr. Chochinov’s research for guidance and insights.  His widely respected and frequently cited work is helping to assure that our medical management of dying and death does not disregard alleviable pain nor violate the dignity of patients and their families.

Among his many contributions to the discipline of palliative care, Dr. Chochinov is Co-Founder and former chair (2001-2015) of the Canadian Virtual Hospice (CVH), the world’s most comprehensive online platform providing information and support to patients, families and health providers on issues related to palliative care and bereavement.  CVH is visited by more than 1.6 million people annually from some 200 countries worldwide, reaching people in remote and rural regions where access to palliative care is limited.  Dr. Chochinov’s award-winning book Dignity Therapy: Final Words for Final Days (OUP, 2011) is a profound and beautiful meditation on human mortality and a blueprint for the palliative intervention developed by Dr. Chochinov and his research colleagues.  With his book, over 250 scholarly publications, and many hundreds of lectures delivered worldwide, Dr. Chochinov has reached many tens of thousands of people with the life affirming insights of Dignity Therapy.

Dr. Chochinov is now recognized worldwide as a leading expert in the psychosocial and spiritual impacts of terminal illness.  He is much honoured, the recipient of numerous awards and appointments, but his most important achievement remains his rigorous empiricism combined with profound humanity.  He has said of his experience as a teacher and lecturer, “I am always struck by how similar people are, wherever they happen to live.  In our humanity, we share common concerns and struggles regarding how to cope with vulnerability and the inevitability of death.” Dr. Chochinov’s recognition of our common humanity and our shared struggles informs his research and will realize benefits for patients and their families worldwide.