Symposium in Rome to seek ways to enhance the relationship between religion and medical ethics

First Press Release - September 9, 2019


The Pontifical Academy for Life (Vatican City) and the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), an initiative of Qatar Foundation, have announced a joint symposium titled ‘Religion and Medical Ethics: Palliative Care and the Mental Health of the Elderly’, to be held in Rome on 11-12 December, 2019.

The first day of the symposium will focus on palliative care and will provide an overview of current practices in Qatar and the Arabian Gulf region in comparison to Western practices. The sessions aim to highlight the existing gaps in modern scholarship on this topic, and investigate ways to tackle the ethical challenges found at the intersection of palliative care and religious bioethics.

Among the sessions will be a discussion on Muslim and Christian commonalities in approaches to palliative care that will highlight differences so as to better inform interfaith approaches to medical care. These sessions will emphasize the important role of interfaith chaplaincy in hospice palliative care.

Discussions and presentations on the second day will focus on the mental health of the elderly. Speakers and delegates will examine the great potential benefits of religion and spirituality in improving the well-being and quality of life of elderly patients, and will explore the opportunities and challenges faced in improving quality of life through religiously informed mental health service provision from an interfaith perspective.

Additional topics being discussed across the two days include the palliative care of children and suicide in the elderly.

The academic partners for the symposium will be The BMJ, who will be represented at the event by editors of the BMJ’s Journal of Medical Ethics.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life (R in the picture), states: “This meeting is very important for us. Palliative care and the health of the elderly are two specific themes of great interest to our Academy; engaging in a dialogue with the Islamic world responds to the specific mandate entrusted by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy. Pope Francis has asked us to articulate an anthropology that sets out the practical and theoretical premises for conduct consistent with the dignity of the human person, and ensure that the tools are made available for critically examining the theory and practice of science and technology, as they interact with life, its meaning and its value”.

Ms. Sultana Afdhal, CEO of WISH (L in the picture), adds: “WISH was founded to help build a healthier world through global collaboration. We greatly appreciate this opportunity to work closely with the Pontifical Academy for Life to bring experts together in Rome who can help shine a spotlight on important issues at the intersection of religious and medical ethics and that deeply affect people of faith at critical times in their lives.”

More detailed information on the event, plus a registration link, can be found at

Vatican City, September 9 2019

Religions and Medical Ethics: Palliative Care and Elderly Mental Health

Rome, 11-12 December, 2019

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A two-day symposium jointly organized by the World Innovation Summit for Health (Qatar) and the Pontifical Academy for Life (Vatican City)

To be held at the Augustinianum Congress Centre, Via Paolo VI, Rome (adjacent to St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City), 11-12 December, 2019

This special symposium examines the role that religion plays in providing holistic care in the context of medical ethics. 

The symposium will focus on to two areas of healthcare:

·         Palliative Care

·         The Mental Health of the Elderly

Sessions include a focus on (tbc):

·         Christian, Islamic and medical perspectives on ethics and palliative care

·         Safeguarding the mental health of elderly patients receiving palliative care

·         Interfaith approaches to promoting the role of spirituality in palliative care

·         Perspectives on pediatric palliative care

·         The mental health and wellbeing of older people: spiritual opportunities and challenges

·         Maintaining the bridge of love between people with dementia and their carers

·         Mental health and the elderly: the intersection of spirituality, caregiving and medicine

·         Suicide and life-threatening behavior among the elderly

Save the date: 11-12 December, 2019

(Simultaneous translation between English, Italian and Arabic will be available throughout the summit)

About the organizers:

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) is an initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. Based in Doha, it holds a biannual summit of global healthcare policymakers, researchers, innovators and healthcare practitioners. Year round, WISH conducts evidence-based health research and works with closely with global partners to promote its mission of “building a healthier world through global collaboration”.

The Pontifical Academy for Life (Pontificia Accademia Pro Vita) is the pontifical academy of the Catholic Church that is dedicated to promoting the Church’s consistent life ethic. Alongside this focus, it conducts extensive research in the fields of bioethics and moral theology.

Academic media partner: The Journal of Medical Ethics (BMJ Group)