The 7th international advance care planning (ACP-I) conference took place on March 13th – 16th in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. 300 participants from 25 countries all over the world shared and discussed new research findings and innovative approaches in the area of ACP.
The conference was preceded by an interesting debate entitled "Op zoek naar een goed levenseinde” on March 12th. Lecturer was Bert Keizer who is philosopher and nursing home physician. According to Keizer, preparing for the end of life is something that deserves our attention. In his speech, he argued for a less anxious and more sensitive approach to the most inescapable and fundamental aspect of our lives: death. Subsequently, a particularly nuanced discussion took place about dying in the 21st century with Judith Rietjens (associate professor), Lia van Zuylen (internist-oncologist), Guus Sluiter (director of the Dutch funeral museum So Far) and the audience.
On March 13th, three pre-conference workshops enabled conference participants to learn about how to conduct the ACP conversation. The same evening, the welcome reception took place in the Rotterdam City Hall.
The following three days the conference was characterized by great stories from plenary speakers, much discussion and mutual exchange. The opening lecture was provided by Adam Kay from the United Kingdom, whose main message was that current structures in health care make being a doctor in the 21st century challenging and may hamper adequate communication between physicians and patients. Subsequently, Hans van Delden from the Netherlands argued that ACP can serve two different goals: (1) to define preferences and (2) to promote reflection. While in theory a choice between these two goals is not necessary, van Delden stated that in practice the two goals result in very different actions and procedures and therefore may be less compatible. The opening was followed by sessions on ACP in several populations (oncology, chronic diseases, dementia, older people, general practice, .. ), on ACP technology, ACP documentation, education, implementation, legal and ethical issues, and much more. Ida Korfage from Erasmus MC Rotterdam presented the results of the ACTION study, an EU-funded international randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of ACP in patients with advanced cancer. During the conference, a lot of discussion emerged about the “right” outcomes of ACP. Findings from recently published white papers concluded that “goal concordant care” is an important outcome measure though incorporating several challenges. According to Susan Hickman from the US, these challenges include changing preferences of care and the lack of documentation of non-events. Several strategies to tackle these challenges were presented as well, such as the periodical reassessment of patient’s preferences and prospective or real-time data collection in research.
Besides the academic sessions, the participants had the opportunity to attend a walking conference dinner and party. This dinner party provided a unique opportunity to meet other participants and enjoy vibrant Rotterdam. During the party, the soon-to-be-very-famous band “The Palliators” created a great atmosphere and many participants danced the night away. Other activities included a mentor-mentee programme which provided networking opportunities for students and new investigators, and a daily updated conference newsletter.
Thanks to all presenters, participants and the organizing committee, the conference was a great success and we are looking forward to see each other again at the next ACP-I conference in Singapore!