Friday, 9 September 2016
Palliative Care Conference
In July, the Catholic Medical Association held a Conference on Palliative Care, in Twickenham. Despite having such a great distance to travel, I decided that since End of Life Care can be described as a stumbling block to conscientious Christians, I wanted to ‘know my stuff’ and would attend in the hope of gaining practical advice and techniques of both delivering exceptional care, and surviving amidst tunnel-visioned, protocol-driven healthcare settings. To this end, I was most grateful to find that I was both offered accommodation on the nights I needed, and a student rate. I stayed on campus in the student halls and was generally pleased with my room and meals – despite joking about the compactness of the shower: “I wasn’t sure whether it was a shower, or a walk-in sink!”
In fitting manner, the Chaplain made the first address, alluding to the importance of the life of grace: we can remedy many conditions, but ultimately all our input is transient since both we and every patient will ultimately leave this world. We might well ask ourselves, ‘Has my practice and evangelisation (as regrettably subtle as the times demand) been focused on the life of grace for life in Heaven, or on this world, which will pass away?’
Whilst I didn’t feel I received the wealth of practical strategies I’d hoped to find (such as, “If you are confronted with ‘A’, say this...” or advice on how to query/challenge over-use of opioids or anxiolytics), I did receive numerous references to studies of interest, and felt buoyed up by knowing there were so many others in practice who shared my concerns. It is my hope that the CMA will continue to hold conferences to share knowledge and skills, and in both increasing frequency and varying areas –especially some further north, where Catholics often feel neglected by many groups.
The conference utilised speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, offering testimony and demonstrating expertise as carers, nurses and physicians. Along with attendee contributions they highlighted both the successes and the inherent flaws in contemporary healthcare training, and offered an insight into raising it to the heights. Further conferences could build on this.