Are we prepared for the worst: Do we have reason to be optimistic?

In his traditional, end-of-year message, Professor Dr Christoph Ostgathe, President of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), reflects on the past year and hopes we can look forward to more solidarity in action in 2022.

Prof Dr Christoph Ostgathe

Today it was that time again. In a conversation, I heard myself recite the American author and human rights activist, Maya Angelou, who says that we should always be “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst…”  In palliative care, we all probably use this statement from time to time in conversations with patients, especially when they are struggling with the inevitability of their disease and have to confront their own mortality.

Today, during my conversation with a 60-year-old patient with cancer, this statement opened a conversation about possibilities and impossibilities, about fears and hopes and, above all, about trust and confidence in the face of the individual catastrophe due to the progression of the disease. After the ward round, a discussion arose in the team about this statement and its validity at the present time. Are we prepared for the worst; do we have reason to be optimistic?

The last year has been so full of regional and global events that have had, or are having, a strong impact on all our lives. First, the pandemic, which continues to challenge social cohesion almost everywhere. A summer of catastrophic floods in Western and Eastern Europe and other parts of the world as a reflection of climate change. And a continuing increase in the number of people fleeing war, poverty and persecution.

When I see what our political leaders do to cope with these challenges, I assume that the worst is yet to come. At the same time, I also see many rays of hope; my personal ‘beacon of hope’ this year was the Syrian refugee who spoke on German television this summer about helping to clean up the worst of the destruction left by the flood in my wonderful hometown of Sinzig.

“We want to help here, hand in hand. Whether we are Germans or foreigners, it doesn’t matter.”

An expression of solidarity in action. Let’s have more of that in 2022!

Shining a light on just a few milestones in 2021… 

Launch of EAPC webinar series

Early in 2021, we presented our first-ever EAPC webinar featuring Dr Robert Twycross, known internationally for his clinical work, teaching and writing, and a founding member of the EAPC. The webinar was a huge success with hundreds of people registered from across the world. The questions were endless, to which Robert responded with customary wisdom gained over his 50 years in palliative care. Two more riveting webinars, masterminded by the EAPC Volunteering Task Force and the Palliative Sedation Task Forcehave now taken place. Open to all and free of charge to members, the EAPC webinar series is making its mark. Do join us on 13 January when Dr Georg Bollig will be presenting the work of the EAPC Last Aid Task Force; and on 27 January when Professor David Oliver and members of the Neurology and Palliative Care Reference Group will present a webinar to complement the current blog series. Many more webinars are planned for 2022.

More collaborative working

Partnership and collaboration, a hallmark of good palliative care, is something we prize at the EAPC. The EAPC is proud to be a partner in several  European Union-funded projects. Our role in these projects is predominantly to disseminate the findings so expect new evidence and innovative content via our congresses, blog and webinars.    

We are also delighted at even stronger links with the World Health Organization (WHO). In a special workshop at our recent World Congress, the WHO chose to launch two important, new resources to support countries in assessing development and improving quality of palliative care services (read more here).

EAPC 17th World Congress Online

Masks, social distancing and lockdowns led to our second online congress. More than 1,000 delegates from at least 72 countries, a formidable programme curated by Professor Fliss Murtagh and her scientific committee, an Opening Address from WHO-Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and a stunning line up of speakers, posters, awards and competitions. Sincere thanks to everyone who did so much to make our congress great again: speakers, chairs, EAPC groups and collaborative projects, delegates and not least our head office team and some technical wizards who truly went the extra mile. If you’re a registered congress delegate, you can relive all the scientific rigour, innovation, and Yoga too, of #EAPC2021 by logging in to the congress platform – available until 31 January 2022. All EAPC members can now view the all the congress plenaries in the Members’ Area of the website – just login with your password at

Now we are deep in planning our next two congresses: EAPC 12th World Research Congress, Online 18 to 20 May 2022 and our EAPC 18th World Congress – Equity and Diversity – which will take place in 2023. Why not play a part yourself and submit a proposal for a parallel session? For us, 2021 was a busy but fulfilling year and we look forward to new avenues of collaboration and activity in 2022.

This Christmas message would not be complete without my thanks to the many people who make up our EAPC family. Our head office team: Julie, Cathy, Avril, Claudia, Joanne and Christine; our Board of Directors, colleagues in the EAPC Research Network and the  EAPC social media team. To all our members and supporters, member associations, our task forces and reference groups, our partner organisations and journals, those who contribute to and read our blog – thank you for your continued support and engagement in EAPC activities.

There is a third part of that saying about “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst…” which I would not like to deprive you of: “… and unsurprised by anything in between”.

On behalf of the EAPC, have a wonderful Christmas and our very best wishes to you all for 2022.

Links and resources

The EAPC blog will take a break over Christmas and New Year. We look forward to welcoming you back on Tuesday 4 January 2022.

APPLY FOR AN EAPC RESEARCHER AWARD? Closing date for submissions 31 January 2022
If you’re making an outstanding contribution to research and clinical practice in palliative care, why not apply yourself, or nominate a colleague, for this prestigious award.
Register for the congress before 28 February 2022 to get the early bird reduced fee. EAPC members receive significantly discounted registration fees. Register here:




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