EAPC Congress 2019

The 16th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care took place in Berlin from 23-25 May 2019. The Congress Motto was: Global palliative care – shaping the future.

The meeting with more than 3000 attendees took place at a congress venue on the famous and well known Berliner Sonnenallee, just at the river-front.

The opening speech was delivered by Prof. Phil Larkin, who also introduced this year’s Floriani lecture winner Prof. Rajagopal from India. In his speech M. R. Rajagopal addressed access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief as an Imperative of Universal Health Coverage. Part of the opening ceremony were songs performed by North-Lichter, a stunning Berliner soul-singer and group.  

It would be impossible to describe all sessions and events that took place in the Congress Centre. A very educative and inspiring session was on “End of Life and Prison: Inequalities and Vulnerability”. The situation of inmates is, being in need of palliative care due to life limiting diseases, throughout Europe not a good one. Inmates throughout Europe get older and older. Inmates are usually 10 years older than people the same age not having to live in prisons. Therefore the need for palliative care rises. In some European countries (e.g. Austria and Germany) the general health care situation for inmates is by far not the same as for patients living outside prisons. According to the Mandela-rules the health care in prisons has to be as good (or bad) as outside the prison. In this aspect there are tremendous differences throughout Europe. In France for example, every prison has to have its own health center (Country law). In Germany, quite often, even in large prisons, it often takes a lot of time to find qualified and willing nurses or doctors to take job positions in prisons.

Another congress highlight, from Austrian point of view, was the session on “Supporting Family and Caregivers”. Dr. Pleschberger presented first findings of her research project “KOMMA” (German acronym for communication with family carers). One main aim of KOMMA is to establish a standardized basis for assessing family carers needs when looking after their loved ones being in need of palliative care. Another goal of “KOMMA” is to establish better communication strategies between family carers and professional palliative care teams.

Professor Merryn Gott from New Zeeland bravely confronted the bias in palliative care, pointing out evidence that gender determines, such as the time when a person is diagnosed with of a life-limiting illness, pain management, the ‘choices’ of Advance Care Planning, the extent of medical intervention received at end of life, experience of palliative care, and where a person dies. As females are to provide the majority of unpaid caregiving addressing their own needs is often overlooked. The end-of-life of females is overshadowed by poverty and limited choices, thus, dying at home (not a nice place) becomes irrelevant to them.

Between sessions participants could attend task force and reference group meeting. In many sessions the questions, how to transfer and build up sustainable educational models was raised. Of particular importance were seen the generation of EAPC guidelines and other global policy papers that were seen as very helpful to advance palliative care education at national and local level.

Throughout the congress an enormous poster exhibition combined, as a novum, with an electronic disposal, was available. The three best posters in each session were awarded with a bow. Among those the poster “Telemedical Care for Palliative Patients with Neurodegenerative Diseases: Results from a Monocentric Pilot Trial” (Weck, Lex, Lorenzl) received a bow as well.

The congress ended with an inspiring lecture by Dr. Ntizimira from Rwanda who presented how he managed to establish palliative care structures with limited resources in Rwanda. 

Surely all participants are looking forward to next year’s research congress in Palermo and world congress in Helsinki. Many thanks to all organizes and participants for making the get together such a success.

Text written by Katharina Lex