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Book Launch Seminar: Death Conversations as part of Life: Role and responsibility of diverse professions including academia

Plant Sciences Auditorium, 1st Floor, Room 3 – 50, Plant Sciences Complex, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
13:30 to 16:00
The Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a transdisciplinary dialogue and book launch. The keynote address will be delivered by Dr Helena Dolny and will be followed by a facilitated panel discussion with scholars and professionals.
Date: Tuesday, 7 November 2017
Time: 13:30 – 16:00
Venue: Plant Sciences Auditorium, 1st Floor, Room 3 – 50, Plant Sciences Complex, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
RSVP: Marinda Maree at [email protected] or Marita Lubbe at [email protected] before or on 27 October 2017.



Dr Helena Dolny believes that if we had 'death-as-part-of-life' conversations as a normal everyday way of living then:

  • End‑of‑life health care costs would be reduced;
  • Longevity would increase;
  • There would be less conflict when a family member is dying.

She believes that there is evidence emerging to support these beliefs, and explores nine themes using a narrative non‑fiction approach. She crafted more than fifty stories, her own and those of others – stories that are beautifully written and thought-provoking; and in their universality, we find resonance with our own lives.

She asks what would need to happen for there to be a step change in the way society engages with mortality? Dolny takes the work of Malcolm Gladwell's  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and applies it to this subject. 'Mavens' (information specialists­), 'connectors' (people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions­), and salespeople are essential for a change to happen.

She also asks further questions. What needs to change in the training curricula of various professions and in law to support the desired shift? What would need to change in the training of health workers, social workers, lawyers, financial advisors, insurance brokers, and spiritual advisors? And what changes are needed in the policies and practices of our health insurance companies? And what, if anything, would be the role of government to foster an enabling environment?


Dr Helena Dolny consistently works with issues that speak to both intellect and heart. She completed her PhD on land markets and their relevance to land reform, which led her to become CEO of the Land Bank in the late nineties. There she discovered the challenge of leadership and institutional transformation so essential to our society. She adjusted her objectives by completing a Master's in Executive Coaching. She now works part-time as a leadership coach with teams and individuals as well as teaching at Henley Business School.

With the rest of her time she follows another passion, writing and talking about why it is important to live a life in which we consciously and continuously engage with the inevitable fact of our mortality. She believes this results in more joy and less suffering, less familial conflict, increased longevity and reduced end‑of‑life health expenditure. She explores how such a shift in society will only come about if there are changes in the training and practice of several different professions. Her latest book is Before Forever After: When Conversations about Living Meet Questions about Dying (Jacana, 2017).

Contact: [email protected] / [email protected]