Developments in medicine and society are just some of the factors that have caused changes to how we deal with death and dying in recent years. What does dying with dignity look like today? What political and institutional conditions are required in hospice and palliative care?
Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock, professor of systematic theology at FAU and vice-chair of the German Ethics Council, was invited by the German President, Joachim Gauck, to discuss these questions at the Bellevue Forum on Monday, 2 November 2015 along with Franz Müntefering (former German minister; president of the Workers’ Samaritan Federation), Prof. Dr. Lukas Radbruch (director of the Department of Palliative Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Bonn; president of the German Society for Palliative Medicine), Dr. Anja Schneider (head of Anhalt-Hospiz Dessau; member of the board of Deutscher Hospiz- und PalliativVerband e.V.), and Teresa Weißbach (actor; voluntary palliative care assistant).
Prof. Dabrock, at the Bellevue Forum in Berlin you mentioned that volunteer work plays a key role in hospice and palliative care for our communities.
Often it is only through the involvement of many people, either professionals or volunteers, in hospice and palliative care that it is possible to ensure that a strong and supportive network is part of a good dying process. To provide relief and strength to a network, where it exists, and to create one where it does not provides the dying person with a feeling of dignity during the final stage of their life.
Furthermore, those left behind are in a better position to cope with their grief if they have been present during the dying process and received support themselves. Those involved in hospice and palliative care do not preach; they provide every-day and often silent support and bear witness to the fact that true self-determination is often sustained by good relationships and that human dignity does not depend on the abilities that one possesses. In this way, a person’s death can become a reflection of a good life for all those involved and be a model for human community.
What are the current tasks that need to be addressed?
From a socioethical perspective, there is still much to be done to ensure that these fundamental ideas of hospice and palliative care reach everyone, allowing them to strengthen the fundamental values of our society. There has already been much discussion of the fact that hospice and palliative care needs to be strengthened and extended to cover rural regions. Furthermore, more attention must be given to care for people in precarious situations: the possibility of hospice and palliative care must be made more accessible to people with disabilities, people with a migrant background and people with financial difficulties.
Full size image of Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock (image: Dominik Gigler)