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EAPC Reference Group on Spiritual Care

What is Spiritual Care?

The WHO definition of palliative care encompasses meeting the spiritual (care) needs of patients, their family and caregivers in all settings. The Spiritual Care reference group has embraced the following working definition and comment:

“Spirituality is the dynamic dimension of human life that relates to the way persons (individual and community) experience, express and/or seek meaning, purpose and transcendence, and the way they connect to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, to the significant and/or the sacred.”

The spiritual field is multidimensional, containing:

  • Existential challenges (e.g. questions concerning identity, meaning, suffering and death, guilt and shame, reconciliation and forgiveness, freedom and responsibility, hope and despair, love and joy).
  • Value based considerations and attitudes (what is most important for each person, such as relationships with oneself, family, friends, work, nature, art and culture, ethics and morals, and life itself).
  • Religious considerations and foundations (faith, beliefs and practices, the relationship with God or the ultimate).  

What are we aiming For?

The Spiritual Care Reference Group started in 2010 as a multidisciplinary Task Force aimed at the development and implementation of spiritual care methods and standards to meet adequately the spiritual care needs of patients, and informal and formal caregivers in all palliative care settings. It became a Reference Group in 2019 focusing on developing evidence-based care models and practices as well as promoting high quality education. The Spiritual Care reference group connects researchers, educators, healthcare chaplains, healthcare professionals, and other EAPC steering groups, in order to disseminate knowledge, research initiatives, educational developments, and implementation projects. We are actively looking to develop a structural commitment and cooperation between national member organisations of the EAPC and other dedicated (inter)national institutions. We encourage all members of the EAPC to support spirituality and spiritual care in palliative care through research, education, and implementation.

Marie-José H.E. Gijsberts


Vrije Universiteit Brussels
End of Life Research Group
Brussels, Belgium
to contact by email: click here

Bella Vivat


Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department
Division of Psychiatry
University College London
to contact by email: click here


  • Carlo Leget, The Netherlands
  • Megan Best, Australia
  • Erik Olsman​, The Netherlands
  • Josep Porta Sales, Spain – EAPC Board link


  • 2021 Online conference: Open and Closed Meetings to be held independently from the conference, but during the same days.

  • 2020 Online conference: Open Meeting. Formal notification that Dr Bella Vivat had become co-chair in May 2020, a year earlier than scheduled, replacing Joep van der Geer who had to stand down due to external responsibilities. Closed Meeting held on the Monday following the online conference.

  • 2020 Palermo: scheduled Open Meeting Thursday 14th of May, 12.15-13.45, Hall 20A

  • 2019 Berlin: TF became a reference group. Prof. Dr. Marie-José H.E. Gijsberts became the new chair

  • 2018 Switzerland: TF meeting cancelled

  • 2017 Spain: TF meets in Madrid

  • 2016 Ireland: TF meets in Dublin

  • 2015 Denmark: TF meets at GNSAH in Copenhagen

  • 2014 Spain: TF meets in Lleida

  • 2013 Czech Republic: TF meets in Prague

  • 2012 Norway: TF meets in Trondheim

  • 2011 Portugal: Final set-up of the TF in Lisbon

  • 2010 The Netherlands: establishing the TF and setting aims and objectives

Publications *

Gijsberts, M.J.H., 2022. Spiritual Care in Palliative Care: A Physician’s Perspective. Religions13(4), p.323.

An EAPC white paper on multi-disciplinary education for spiritual care in palliative care 

Spiritual Care in Palliative Care: A Systematic Review of the Recent European Literature

What activities do EAPC members consider to be spiritual care? Results from a survey on behalf of the EAPC Spiritual Care Task Force

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: Portugal EJPC 2017 24 4

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life in the Republic of Ireland EJPC 2016 23 1

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life in Spain EJPC 2016 23 2

Spiritual care education: results from an EAPC survey EJPC 2015 22 2

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: the UK EJPC 2013 20 1

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: Estonia EJPC 2015 22 1

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: Finland EJPC 2014 21 6 

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: Germany EJPC 2014 21 2

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: Italy EJPC 2012 19 6

Implementing spiritual care at the end of life: the Netherlands EJPC 2012 19 4

Spiritual care in palliative care: working towards an EAPC Task Force EJPC 2011 18 2

*These documents are held under copyright of the publisher and may be downloaded for single academic use only. Reproduction for any other purpose is not allowed.


Twitter Handle is @EAPCSpiritualC1


If you wish to join the LinkedIn group of the Task Force Spiritual care click here.