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Antea Worldwide Palliative Care Conference

Rome, 12-14 November 2008


Presenting author From Training to Authentic Presence: The Neurophysiology of Empathy and
Jerome Liss
Email: Authors (max 6, presenting author included): Jerome Liss

Phone There is universal anguish when faced with the existential situation of mortality. To escape from
the death fear, the Pharoes had to build pyramids.
What can be done when we are faced with mortality? The simple presence of an empathic
Mobile phone person who has the capacity to hear the depths of feeling is sufficient to create the first step of
help. But how to listen is a challenge. The Listener must avoid giving superficial reassurance,
unasked for advice, irrelevant interpretations, or other interfering reactions; this requires
training. At the same time, the consciousness of the human condition, “We are all in the same
Please underline the most boat,” allows a new connection so that the anguished person does not feel alone.
appropriate category for your
abstract Today’s research regarding the neurophysiology of the brain shows how the deepest brain levels
participate in this deep emotional experience. Our deep brain structures regulate emotions, trust
• Pain and other symptoms
in the other, vitality, memory and visceral feelings; all this contributes to the emotional
• Palliative care for cancer patients experience of empathic contact. Even the Listener’s “neurophysiological depths” are involved,
• Palliative care for non cancer and require a certain degree of regulation in order that the anguished person can feel, “You are
patients really present, not overwhelmed by my distress, but not too cold and distant.” This means that
• Paediatric palliative care the Listener must not offer reactions that induce a premature closure of the anguish. The anguish
• Palliative care for the elderly
must be felt and recognized before it can evolve toward relief and closure. When the Listener
can sense his own visceral sensations in response to the anguished person’s situation, but not
• The actors of palliative care
impose his own solution for the mortality question, the person who is suffering can feel, “I’m not
• Latest on drugs alone.” With that experience the vicious circles of the unconscious brain processes change their
• Pain pattern and become processes that are in equilibrium.

• Illness and suffering through
• Marginalisation and social stigma
at the end of life
• Palliative care advocacy projects

• Prognosis and diagnosis
communication in
different cultures
• Communication between doctor-
patient and patient-
• Religions and cultures versus
suffering, death and
• Public institution in the world:
palliative care policies
and law
• Palliative care: from villages to metropolies

• Space, light and gardens for the terminally ill patient
• End-of-life ethics
• Complementary therapies Session: Volunteer in palliative care
• Education, training and research
• Fund-raising and no-profit Chair of the session: Dott. Silvana Zambrini
• Bereavement support

• Volunteer in palliative care
• Rehabilitation in palliative care