Transforming palliative care – a vibrant start to the 11th Asia Pacific Hospice Conference

Categories: Education.

The event got off to a vibrant start, as energetic drumming and gong playing mesmerised the audience at the opening ceremony, to a backdrop of a slide show showing the past 20 years of palliative care in Taiwan.

Evoking the transformation experience of hospice care

Dr Yuh-Cheng Yang, Chairman of the board of the Hospice Foundation of Taiwan, took the stage to give the welcome address.

He said: “Our goal is to evoke the transformation experience of hospice care in the Asia Pacific region, so that we may become leaders and plan for future developments tailored to our specific culture and needs.”

He announced with regret the death of Chairman Lin, former chairman of the Hospice Foundation of Taiwan, and the chairman of this year’s APHC. He said: “Chairman Lin put in his heart and soul in preparing for this conference, but now I have to accept his baton and will make my best attempt to honour his will.”  

He invited the delegates to be challenged, excited and inspired, and to take advantage of the resources and exchange of ideas available at the conference.

A long journey, but a happy one

Dr Cynthia Goh, Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHPCN) chairperson said: “Watching the slideshow reminds me of what we have gone through together. It has been a long journey, but a happy journey.”

“Hospice palliative care has changed so much since we last met in Taipei,” she said.

She recalled the conference theme: Transforming Palliative Care, and asked delegates to consider how palliative care has been transformed in this period and how it has transformed each of them. She said: “We cannot do palliative care without being changed by it. It is the enriching of ourselves that actually sustains us in this work.”

Prof. Goh spoke about the APHPCN, and its function of linking up workers in hospice and palliative care in the Asia Pacific region.

She spoke about the importance of research and of education, but emphasised the vital role of communication in running and sustaining a network.

She said: “It is not a network unless the members take part in it. As members we need to communicate with each other.”

“When we started APHN,” she said, “we had just fax machines. In the intervening years, communication has transformed.”

Prof Goh encouraged APHPCN members to access ehospice and to think about how they could contribute to sharing stories from their region through this global communication channel.

Gratitude to those practicing hospice and palliative care

The Commissioner of the National Health Bureau of Taiwan, Dr Shu-Ti Chiou, welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Government of Taiwan.

She started by expressing sincere gratitude and respect from the Taiwanese Government to all those practicing hospice and palliative care.

She noted that palliative care should be: “by the people, through the people and for the people.”

She emphasised the fact that palliative care is part of the right to health and recognised that, although the cost of dying provided a reason why governments should promote palliative care, a more important reason was the human right to palliative care and dignity at the end of life.

She closed by saying to those present: “Please continue to support the government to do this work and I thank you for all your efforts to make it happen.”

Whole-person care

Dr Rosalie Shaw introduced the first plenary by Prof Tom Hutchinson, author of: ‘Whole-person care a new paradigm for the 21st century’.

Dr Hutchinson said: “Whole person care is what you are already doing. It is a gift from palliative care to the rest of medicine and the rest of medicine really needs to catch up with you.”

He said: “Palliative care is beginning to transform and will continue to transform the rest of medicine.”

Spirituality and suffering

Prof Shih-Tzu Chao spoke about: ‘An Eastern Approach to Suffering’, noting that physical suffering cannot be Western or Eastern, but suffering of the soul can be influenced by cultural factors. She told delegates that how to interpret the meaning of suffering and the way in which people go through suffering is culturally bound.

Later, in the afternoon plenary, Dr Noreen Chan picked up this theme. She used quotes about spirituality from a variety of people, ‘Western’, ‘Eastern, religious and non-religious, ancient and modern, to illustrate her point that:

“Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.”

The above definition was coined by the The Global Network for Spirituality & Health (GNSAH), a group that seeks to be: “a leading organization on education and clinical issues related to spirituality and health.”

Joan Marston gave a beautiful and incredibly eloquent plenary about the ways in which children understand and express spirituality.

She told the audience that when we ask ourselves how to talk to children about spiritual issues in palliative care, the answer is: We don’t. We wait for them to talk to us.

Follow the conference on Twitter using the hashtag #APHC2015 and look out for further coverage on the International and International Children’s editions of ehospice. 

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