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Story | Research
14 December 2019

WISH to create new guide to help health workers understand patients’ faith


Commitment made as inter-faith symposium on religion and medical ethics closes

A practical publication for healthcare workers that helps them better understand the needs of people of faith who are receiving palliative care is to be produced by the World Innovation Summit for Health.

At the closing of a two-day inter-faith symposium in Vatican City, titled Religion and Medical Ethics: Palliative Care and the Mental Health of the Elderly, Sultana Afdhal, CEO of the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), said the conference has led the Qatar Foundation initiative to make three commitments to improve the implementation of palliative care in Qatar.

"We will develop religion and medical ethics training sessions for healthcare workers that emphasize how spirituality needs to be considered as integral to holistic care,” she said.

"We will look at the individual sessions over the last two days and develop targeted workshops, including a workshop specifically on the topic of pediatric palliative care.

“Lastly, we will work together with the Pontifical Academy for Life to use our joint declaration from January, and the resulting positioning paper delivered to His Holiness Pope Francis in October 2019, to produce a practical publication for healthcare workers that helps them better understand the needs of people of faith receiving palliative care.”

Addressing the symposium, Afdhal said it was crucial that conversations initiated during the two-day gathering now continue and are “stepped up”.

“It is vital that our talks lead to positive action that is patient-focused, that promotes the need to consider the faith of patients, and that helps healthcare workers to better deliver compassionate care,” she said.

In his closing address, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life – with whom WISH co-organized the symposium – said palliative care needs to be a mandatory part of medical training for all healthcare professionals, to ensure the continuation of care for the elderly.

“Palliative care was introduced relatively recently - a few decades ago - so few states have passed laws, and where laws have been passed, as in the case of Italy, they are not applied,” he said. “People ignore them.

"There is a problem in terms of communicating this approach of accompanying people towards the end of their lives. Palliative care is only administered in the field of oncology today, and during this conference, we realized it’s open to the whole clinical spectrum.

"We need to consider it and try to understand how our movement can be effective in this sector. We have to promote the growth of a culture of palliative care in universities, and I would like this to be a mandatory subject in medical schools.”

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