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

The first day of the symposium will focus on palliative care and 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, with the aim of better informing interfaith approaches to medical care. These sessions will emphasise the important role of interfaith chaplaincy in hospice palliative care.

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

Other topics which will be discussed include palliative care for children and suicide among the elderly. Representatives of QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar and QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics will be among those speaking at the event.

The academic partners for the symposium will be the BMJ, which will be represented by editors of its Journal of Medical Ethics.

WISH CEO Sultana Afdhal said they greatly appreciate the 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.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the meeting is very important for them. He said that palliative care and the health of the elderly are two specific themes of great interest to their 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.’

For more details about the symposium or to register, visit