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Religious leaders join voices in call for global access to palliative care for children

Posted on: November 11, 2015 3:56 PM
The Revd Mia Hilborn is head of spiritual health care at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in south London
Photo Credit: Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

[ACNS] Leading experts in the field of paediatric palliative care from around the world gathered in Rome, Italy, yesterday (Wednesday, 10 November) to meet with leaders of different faiths, human rights advocates and the parents of children who have died or who are facing death, to call for global access to children’s palliative care.

Some 20 million children around the world are suffering from life-limiting and life-threatening diseases. Some of their parents were amongst those who gathered at the Pontifical Academy for Life in Vatican City for the day of discussions.

Following key-note addresses, the day began with experts taking part in round-table discussions with others in their field.

Amongst the faith leaders and theologians who took part was Church of England hospital chaplain, the Revd Mia Hilborn, head of spiritual health care at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in south London. Also expected to be present were Dr Christina Puchalski, director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health in Washington DC; Dr Anne Merriman, a Roman Catholic missionary who founded Hospice Africa in Uganda; Father Alexander Tkachenko, a Russian Orthodox Archpriest who founded the St Petersburg Children’s Hospice; and Professor Abdulsalami Al-Abbadi, secretary general of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

“I am very excited and rather humbled to be part of this consultation to discuss the world religions contribution to children's palliative care,” Mia Hilborn told ACNS. “World religions can provide a framework to help find meaning and spiritual and religious support amidst the pain and distress of those facing the death of a child.

“Faith leaders can actively challenge any culture where a sick or dying child is considered to be inherently of less value than a healthy adult.”

The event was conceived by the Maruzza Foundation. Its leader, Silvia Lefebvre D’Ovidio, said: “Palliative care is global care, encompassing the clinical, psychological and spiritual needs of patients and their families and aims to achieve the best quality of life possible and respect for human dignity.

“The moral authority of religion has global reach, and one of the common primary aspirations of all religions is the protection of the vulnerable. Since these patients are among the most vulnerable, our desire at the close of our workshop is to present a universal declaration, by all faiths, that paediatric palliative care is the best approach, and a right, for all children and young people suffering from life-threatening and life-limiting disease.”