Dr Per Fugelli, a general practitioner in Norway who’s lately advocated more openness around death while dealing with a cancer diagnosis himself, has been awarded this year’s Freedom of Expression Prize from the country’s Fritt Ord Foundation.
Fugelli, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, won the award for “having given a voice to cancer patients and those who stand face to face with death,” according to the foundation’s board of trustees.
Fritt Ord’s board hailed Fugelli for helping open up a discussion in Norway about what it means to be seriously ill. “With wisdom and generosity, he has drawn attention to our fears about talking about death and how we repress such thoughts,” Fritt Ord’s board wrote in its price announcement. “As Fugelli puts it, ‘Today’s society needs to release death from the prison of banned words.’ ”
Fugelli was also cited for his book Death, shall we dance? in 2010, which Fritt Ord’s board called “a welcome contribution to candor about death in life.”
Fugelli, a professor of social medicine at the University of Oslo, was born in Stavanger in 1943. He was a professor of general practice at the University of Bergen before moving to Oslo in 1992 and has been a frequent commentator on medical and health care issues in Norway.
Fritt Ord called him “an independent critic of his own profession for many years,” referring to his opposition to what he considered the “bureaucratization” of Norwegian health care institutions. Fugelli has long advocated a more humanistic approach to health and social policy, focusing on the entire individual. He has participated in countless debates over the years, published several books and been a member of a state commission on national values.
His award will be presented at the Norwegian Opera on May 14. It consists of a statue and cash prize of NOK 400,000 from Fritt Ord, a private, non-profit foundaton that aims to promote freedom of expression and public debate.