Making connections – EAPC President visits the European Parliament

Professor Philip Larkin, President of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), highlights some European Parliament initiatives that may offer opportunities for the EAPC to be seen as an authority on the delivery and practice of palliative care.

Prof Philip Larkin

Once in a while, it serves to answer the phone.

I received an invitation to attend a meeting of the EPP Working Group on Bioethics and Human Dignity to present on ‘Principles of Palliative Care’. “And you would be?” I asked.

I was invited as the President of EAPC because the committee wanted to know more about palliative care in Europe. How could I refuse? Given the EAPC’s impending development in Brussels, I thought it would not hurt to have a look around. After all, you would not buy a house that you had not viewed.

Viewing the house was a problem. I had to wait outside for the person who had made the initial contact (a very nice woman called Jana Zuscinova) to meet me, get me past security, be stamped, searched, verified and labelled as worthy to enter.

The EPP working group on bioethics and human dignity has existed for several years and is chaired by MEP (Member of the European Parliament) from Slovakia, Dr Miroslav Mikolášik. Over lunch, he explained about the European Parliament and the role of the MEP.

And so to business . . .

EAPC has been affiliated to the Council of Europe for many years but has been less visible within the European Parliament. We, therefore, hoped that this meeting would give us the opportunity to be seen as an authority on the delivery and practice of palliative care, and the ‘go-to’ people for future information and guidance.

At the EPP meeting, with me on the platform was Prof Dr Benoît Beuselink, an oncologist from Leuven, who discussed issues from a Belgian perspective, particularly the challenges for some physicians in Belgium following legislative changes regarding the practice of Euthanasia in clinical practice.

The well-publicised meeting was open to anyone with an interest in palliative care and we had a good audience – interested parties, MEPs, strategists representing various individuals and political parties.

EPP group meeting. Left to right: Prof Philip Larkin, Dr Miroslav Mikolášik and Prof Dr Benoît Beuselink

What did I learn?

And so to Euthanasia and the many challenges that this poses for the palliative care community. It’s clearly the ‘hot topic’ in the EU Parliament. Generally, my opinion was that this EPP group was not in favour of the practice or legislation, and on this visit, I met no one with a pro-stance on the topic. We, as EAPC, have responded to this important debate and I refer to our EAPC White Paper on Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide published in Palliative Medicine in 2015. However, I remain concerned that palliative care, euthanasia, and integrated care are used synonymously in descriptions of palliative care. Both Dr Beuselink and I were clear about differences and the inappropriateness of confusion on this topic.

One particularly challenging issue was a perception that the World Medical Association was being heavily influenced by the euthanasia debate and the impact this could have. I would say very clearly that EAPC needs to keep a close watching brief on this. If we wish to be seen as serious players at the EU Parliamentary table, we will not be able to avoid a deeper engagement with this topic.

Not (quite) everything was about this. I was also asked questions about my views on women as unpaid carers, amongst other things. The fact that the EAPC will, eventually, have a physical presence in Brussels will be beneficial. The work of EAPC is noted by these groups across a range of fields by these committees: education and training, research, clinical practice and, of course, ethics. We have positions on many things, which is good in terms of being able to represent who we are clearly and concisely.

The invitation was pure serendipity. I picked up the phone when I could so easily have missed the call. We need to build on that and make sure that we are able to advise well those in positions of decision-making. Clearly, the people I met genuinely want to help but are sometimes confused and unclear about palliative care language and description.

We have a responsibility to make sure that our messages are clear – ‘One Voice-One Vision’. That message has never changed and nor should it in these complex and turbulent political times. 


Keep in touch with the EAPC


This entry was posted in EAPC ACTIVITIES, EAPC Board Members, EAPC White Papers, Guidelines & Recommendations, Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.