Paul Vanden Berghe, Director, Federatie Palliatieve Zorg Vlaanderen, Belgium and a member of the Board of Directors of the EAPC
With the death of Zuster Léontine (Sœur Léontine), Belgium has lost one of its finest pioneers in palliative care. Born in 1923 as Jozefa de Buysscher, she joined the Gasthuiszusters Augustinessen of Brussels at the age of 26. For the rest of her life, she would work in the St Jans Hospital of Brussels (Clinique Saint-Jean): first as a nurse, later as a medical doctor, and for the last 25 years as director of the hospital and as a teacher of nurses. It was only after her retirement, at the age of 67, that Sœur Léontine became involved in palliative care and founded the first residential palliative care unit in Belgium at the same hospital. Palliative care would become her lifetime achievement. The best possible care for the dying, through alleviation of pain and professional and loving proximity in the nearness of death, became her trademark.
“Sister Léontine was a determined and talented manager, who had also the primal talent to be close to her patients. That was a unique combination. Although short in stature, she was an impressive figure. She put palliative care definitely on the map.” (Dr A Mullie, President of the Federation of Palliative Care of Flanders).
“The EAPC pays tribute to Sœur Léontine as an impressive leader of palliative care, may her work continue to inspire others and bring lasting benefits to all patients and families needing support near the end of life.” (Professor Sheila Payne, President of the European Association for Palliative Care).
Zuster/Sœur Léontine died on 19 February 2012 at the age of 88 years, in the palliative care unit she founded.