20th International Congress on Palliative Care draws to a close

Categories: Education.

Colleagues from around the world interacted during the sessions as they learned about each other’s work and shared their own experience.

The morning session of innovative technologies in palliative care was well attended, with lively discussions on ehospice as an advocacy tool, tablet-based home consultation sessions and mobile palliative care apps for general practitioners.

Those delegates lucky enough to sign up for the workshop: ‘Dying in Good Hands: The Art of Palliative Massage” were treated to an immersive journey of simultaneously learning basic massage techniques, practising and being practised upon, and sharing in the final moments of a husband and father as the family used palliative massage, first to relieve symptoms and increase comfort, and finally to accompany him until the moment of death and beyond.

Dr Bernard Lapointe and Professor Carlo Leget delivered the closing plenary presentations.  

Prof Leget used the Medieval tradition of ‘the art of dying’ to examine five existential struggles at the end of life and asked: “How can we prepare for a future in which our core values are preserved?”

Dr Lapointe closed the congress with his plenary presentation entitled: ‘Navigating through turbulent times: Hospice/palliative care today and in the years to come’. He shared his experience working in a clinic serving patients with HIV during the epidemic in the 1980s, and working under the mentorship of Dr Balfour Mount as the traditional medical model was put aside in favour of an interdisciplinary care that focussed on the patient, rather than the disease. 

He cautioned against the over medicalisation of care, noting that although “excellent clinical care is essential to the services that we offer,” the person to person interaction at the heart of palliative care needed to be recognised and appropriately funded. He argued that: “palliative care is and must remain a discipline characterised by competence, an ethos of humanity, generosity and reconciliation,” and reminded delegates that “vigilance is needed to protect the core values of palliative care as we move forward.” 

The Congress remains a valuable site of learning, networking, communication and advocacy. A major highlight of the Congress was the publishing of the Montreal Declaration on Palliative Care, which urges the UN to include palliative care in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030. The Declaration is available on the Congress website and individuals and organizations are invited to show their support by signing.

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