‘Religion and Medical Ethics’: Inter-Religious Symposium on Palliative Care and Mental Health

Presented in the Vatican

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A special symposium entitled “Religion and Medical Ethics: Palliative Care and Mental Health During Aging,” will be held in the Augustinianum Congress Centre of Rome on December 11-12.

The Pontifical Academy for Life and the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), an initiative of the Qatar Foundation, have organized the event.


This symposium is dedicated to the role of religion in integral care in the context of medical ethics. The speakers and participants will analyze the intersection of the focuses of care based on beliefs and on evidence, highlighting the benefits of inter-disciplinary and inter-religious focuses in the treatment of the body, mind, and soul.

The symposium was presented today, December 10, 2019, in a press conference which witnessed the intervention of Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Sultana Afdhal, General Directress of WISH – Qatar, and Kamran Abbasi, Executive Editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) academic partner of the event.

Palliative Care and Mental Health

As Monsignor Paglia pointed out that this event will focus on two sectors of health care: the palliative care and mental health of the elderly. On one hand, said the Prelate, “we are witnessing the growing aging of the population; on the other, the spread of a culture of euthanasia, because terminal patients and persons of advanced age are considered disposable in a world centered on profit and the economy, and health policies often yield to an accounting mentality.

Nevertheless, in contraposition, he pointed out that “we know well how much palliative care is the protagonist of recovery of an integral accompaniment of the patient in the context of contemporary medicine.  And we know that we can take care, even when we can no longer cure, balancing a person’s care with economic budgets.

He also stressed that although men and women need to be accompanied “in a moment of fragility,” this is even truer when it’s a question of minors, “a very delicate and painful realm: pediatric palliative care,” given that “when suffering affects minors, children, it affects us even more.”

The Church’s Commitment

On the other hand, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, traced the patent commitment of this organism with the promotion of a culture of palliative care at the level of the Catholic Church worldwide, through the holding of several Conferences on this subject in Italy and Europe, with the signing of a Joint Declaration with the Methodist Church in the United States, and with the signing of a Joint Declaration with Sultana Afdhal in Brazil, Lebanon, and Qatar.

He also referred to a Position Paper on the subject of the end of life and palliative care, signed in the Vatican on October 28 with representatives of the three Abrahamic religions, and the White Book on the Promotion and Diffusion of Palliative Care in the World, prepared by an international group of experts.

Inter-Religious Character

For her part, Sultana Afdhal spoke on the inter-religious nature of this event and the participation of experts, both of faith and of medicine, something that will “offer an inestimable opportunity to understand in greater depth the very real ethical dilemma that health professionals face of different spiritual origins throughout the world, in addressing these very delicate subjects and, yes, difficult for many of us.”

The President of WISH-Qatar said, “ we will all gain something if we learn how other religions respond to these subjects and, perhaps, we will discover some new focuses to follow, both medically as well as spiritually.”

“A profound medical inter-religious and inter-disciplinary dialogue on palliative care and the mental health of the older members in our communities is essential to help to establish a common terrain. This will help us find more effective ways to bridge the differences in the ethical focuses based on faith, be they real or perceived,” she added in this same line.

Medical Perspective

For his part, Kamran Abbasi, Executive Co-Editor of BMJ, said that the objective of this publication in the symposium is “to contribute a medical perspective to these discussions.”

“If we believe we are focused on the patient — as we all believe here  –, then we must find a common basis for a constructive conversation that recognizes that persons’ beliefs play an important and central role in the taking of decisions on their health,” he said.

At the same time, he pointed out that “in the era of the association of patients it’s important that we find ways to ascertain that persons of all religions and origins are able to make use of tests and science to have a long and healthy life,” it being essential “that religious beliefs and evidence work in harmony to help patients and their families to face these complex challenges.”


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Qatar Foundation

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) is a private non-profit organization that supports Qatar in its journey from an economy based on carbon to one based on knowledge, freeing the human potential for the benefit of Qatar and of the world.

Founded in 1995 by Sheikh Hama Bin Khalifa Al Thani. Emir of Qatar, QF is presided by Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser. QF carries out its mission through three strategic pillars: education, science and research, and community development.

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